HBO PPV provided the public with boxing’s most memorable showdown in 2011, televising a Sept. 17, 2011, ring exchange that somehow generated hundreds of millions of web video views despite the limited distribution of pay-per-view.
(HBO Allowing Mayweather to Censor Merchant, Lamps? Keep Reading)
Six days ago, new HBO President Ken Hershman proudly announced an HBO PPV fight on May 5, 2012, that seemingly suggested a rematch of the celebrated combatants whose earlier HBO post-fight exploits produced a mountain of positive media coverage previously unseen by a sport relegated to margins of the mainstream.
I’m talking, of course, about HBO PPV’s much-anticipated return bout already touted by a boxing news site and in a recent ESPN.com chat featuring ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael as “Merchant-Mayweather II.”
If you’ve only recently been released from capitivity, the first meeting between the principals took place in the ring after Mayweather defeated an overmatched Victor Ortiz with a blow later attributed to Mayweather by Merchant - and citizens of the lower 48 states - as a “sucker punch.”
The actual Mayweather-Merchant blow-by-blow featured by HBO after the fight on Sept. 17, 2011:
Larry Merchant: You were in charge of this fight. You were aggressive in trying to take advantage…
Floyd Mayweather: You know what I’m gonna do cause you never give me a fair shake, you know that? So I’m gonna let you talk to Victor Ortiz. I’m through. Put someone else here to give me an interview. Talk to Victor Ortiz!
Larry Merchant: What are you talking about?
Floyd Mayweather: You never give me a fair shake. HBO needs to fire you. You don’t know (expletive) about boxing! You ain’t (expletive) You’re not (expletive)!
Larry Merchant: I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your (expletive).
Floyd Mayweather: You won’t do (expletive)!
Bereft a post-fight injection of well-founded reality by Merchant, longtime boxing reporter Steve Kim would’ve probably spotlighted a short-changed HBO PPV audience. Instead, Kim celebrated what may have been the 80-year-old’s finest professional hour:
In the aftermath of Larry Merchant’s verbal altercation with Floyd Mayweather on Saturday night (shortly after the sucker punch heard ’round the world leveled Victor Ortiz), if you typed “Larry Merchant Mayweather” into Google, you’d get a listing of over a million results.
After telling a tantrum-throwing Mayweather, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your ass,” in response to the temperamental pugilist’s claim that Merchant didn’t know “sh*t” about the sport, Merchant immediately became a part of pop culture. Want proof? Go to TMZ.com and you’ll see Merchant, of all people.
As it related to “Star Power,” ironically, it was Merchant, the longtime boxing analyst for HBO Sports, whose star has shined the brightest.
In Merchant’s TMZ interview, taped while the HBO announcer walked through the Vegas airport the day after the fight, the TMZ reporter remarked to a beaming Merchant:
“I gotta give you a lot of credit. Just for that comment alone you should be with HBO Boxing forever. No one (at HBO) should tell you when to go or when not to go.”
Even without that kind of pricelesss publicity, with Mayweather yet another in a long line of boxers, managers and promoters whose only use for fans is as braindead ATMs, never has Merchant and fellow ringside ancient Jim Lampley been more important. The reality of the PPV boxing business is that keeping up appearances with the sport’s precious few drawing cards means selling matches to the public that were never intended as anything other than to top-off of a boxer’s entourage.
Go to that well enough times without the context and credibility Merchant and Lampley provide and the public can only be bought off for so long.
Though if information recently obtained by SbB from multiple sources is any indication, new HBO President Ken Hershman might be willing to give it a try.
While in negotiations for the May 5 Mayweather fight, Mayweather instructed his representative Al Haymon to inform HBO’s Hershman that if the boxer was to fight on HBO in the future, Lampley and Merchant must surrender the right to discuss any and all of Mayweather’s affairs outside the ring on the HBO telecast. The ban would include any discussion of Mayweather’s management team.
Mayweather previously demanded the same ban during past fight negotiations with former longtime HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg but Greenburg never ceded any measure of editorial control of HBO’s own broadcasts to the boxer.
Multiple sources have informed SbB that Hershman, who recently took over for Greenburg, has since agreed to Mayweather’s ban demand.
According to sources Hershman also later informed prominent boxing promoters Bob Arum and Gary Shaw of the on-air editorial concession HBO had granted Mayweather.
Additionally, Hershman agreed to surrender the right of Lampley and Merchant to discuss any outside-the-ring affairs of other fighters repped by Haymon.
Lampley and Merchant have been informed of their new, on-air editorial limits pertaining to Mayweather and other Haymon-repped fighters with the latter ban going into full effect this Saturday when Haymon-repped Adrien Broner fights on HBO.
When contacted Thursday and told that Hershman and HBO had agreed to ban Lampley and Merchant from discussing Mayweather’s affairs outside the ring and the fighter’s management team - along with a similar policy for other Haymon-repped fighters - an HBO Spokesman told SbB, “that’s completely untrue. That didn’t happen.”