Larry Merchant on Mayweather-Pacquiao: Will it have the ‘wow’ factor?
Larry Merchant can honestly say he’s seen it all. The Hall of Fame color analyst was ringside for Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I, and has been a live witness to almost every major fight in the last half century. So Merchant, like the rest of the boxing world, has been patiently waiting for the fight everyone has wanted to see finally come to fruition and that’s Floyd Mayweather getting into the ring with Manny Pacquiao.
As the fight has been announced it will happen, RingTV.com sought out the former HBO announcer for his wisdom, insight and opinion as to what could possibly happen when Mayweather and Pacquiao meet. And why, and possibly why not, this fight could exceed all expectations.
Merchant discussed these topics in a quick interview.
THE RING: The boxing world has been waiting for this fight for some time. What are your general feelings about the fight?
LARRY MERCHANT: I hope that it lives up to the event, to the expectations, to the hype. Unfortunately, too many of Mayweather’s fights don’t live up to the hype. The excitement ends when the first bell rings. That said, Mayweather’s type of fighter has a longer shelf life than Pacquiao’s style of a fighter. So Mayweather will be the favorite — a strong favorite – to win. Five or six years ago, if this fight would have taken place then, Mayweather would have been the favorite, too, but not as sure of a favorite. That’s been the difference in the two fighters since then. If you put a gun to my head, there is a reason why the favorite is favored. What I would like to see is Pacquiao be the old Pacquiao. And if he can be that for one night, then he has a shot.
THE RING: What has Pacquiao shown you in recent years?
LM: The most important thing, since the (Juan Manuel) Marquez fight (when Pacquiao suffered a sixth-round KO in Dec. 2012), Pacquiao still wants to get after it. He got himself in top condition and dominated two ranked fighters and he was particularly impressive in how he outclassed Chris Algieri, who is the type of boxer who can give an older fighter a lot of trouble. Maybe that’s a good omen for Pacquiao. Pacquiao is the only top fighter that I’ve known of who has a full-time separate job, as a congressman, and he still wants to compete against the best fighters. After suffering the kind of knockout he had against Marquez, and he still wants more. That shows me he isn’t done yet.
THE RING: What has Mayweather shown you?
LM: Mayweather is still highly motivated to win. He seems as dedicated to his training as he’s ever been, and he’ll do whatever it takes to win, even if it means taking as few risks as possible. Mayweather is a talented, non-violent boxer. He believes in control through non-violence.
THE RING: Did you see any chinks in Mayweather during the course of his first fight with Marcos Maidana?
LM: Maidana has the right style to fight a skilled craftsman like Mayweather. Maidana can interrupt his control and rhythm in a fight and just keeps coming. He plays the game of his best defense is to hit the other guy first. I’m really happy to see a big mega-event in our sport, but my worst fear is that you attract an enormous audience and when it’s all over, they wonder what they were attracted to in the first place, instead of saying, ‘Wow, that was a great experience!’ How Mayweather has maintained his stature is not caring about that kind of stuff.
THE RING: Finally, Larry, you were there at Ali-Frazier I, you’ve been to some of the greatest fights ever. Where can this possibly rank on the all-time scale of the most anticipated fight?
LM: Ali-Frazier I, at that time, had the highest hype and the highest expectation that you could put on a fight, and the fight exceeded the expectations. It takes two to make that happen. There have been some other fights, like Leonard-Hearns I, and there have been a number of fights that people were anticipating and hoping to see some kind of serious contest, and they got it. That’s not Mayweather’s game. Pacquiao has come through in that regard. His fights with Erik Morales and others, he’s always excelled in the moment. He had one of the best years in modern boxing when he stopped two guys in a row in Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and then Miguel Cotto. He hasn’t stopped anyone since. So there are questions on both sides. As a boxing fan, I’m just hoping that we get a real fight.
No, no, no, I do have to correct something, though. This fight may have the biggest numbers, but that doesn’t make it the biggest. If you’re a metrics guy, then OK, I get it. But that’s not what makes an event resonate around the world, and an event that people remember. There have been a lot of major events, and only a handful that become indelible. That’s up to the fighters in the ring on the night of the fight. Someone has to supply some drama and finality that adds a ‘wow’ factor.