Larry Merchant Interview on Chavez, Rubio, Mayweather, Pacquiao, Donaire and much more...
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 2, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Larry Merchant
No introduction needed for HBO's expert analyst. Larry has won every award possible in this sport during his career as a sportswriter, analyst, boxing historian. And yes, Larry is a member of Boxing's elite International Hall of Fame. There is no truth to the rumor that he is in training for a showdown with the pound for pound champ, Floyd Mayweather Jr. Let's once again welcome Larry into the doghouse.

David Tyler - Larry, I know we are here to discuss this Saturday's HBO fight card from deep in the heart of Texas (February 4th only on HBO.) I would first like to ask you about the feedback you have received for your 'man to man' confrontation with Floyd Mayweather Jr. during the interview after his fight with Victor Ortiz?

Larry Merchant - The response has been very positive for standing up for myself and asking the questions that everyone wanted answered. It put me in the center of discussion for several days. It was a 'spontaneous combustion' response from both of us that ignited an atmosphere of volatility that lasted a few days. It was fun.

DT- Larry before we get started on a discussion about Saturday's fights, I would like to congratulate you for 34 years as a boxing expert analysis for HBO. Can you share some memories of great fights with the readers?

LM - There is so many of them....Leonard/Hearns, Leonard/Hagler, Hagler/Hearns, Tyson/Douglass, Holyfield/Bowe fights, that's just a few.

DT - Let's pick two fight and recount your memories of the event. How about Leonard/Hearns....the one where Angelo Dundee said 'You're blowing it kid?'

LM - Dundee said 'You're blowing it son' ...Hearns had the lead in the late rounds...he had gone from being the puncher to being a boxer. He was boxing better than Leonard, puffed up Leonard's eye, and going into the late rounds had the lead in the bout. Leonard realized that he had to go into a higher gear to win the fight and that's exactly what he did.

DT - The Hearns/Hagler fight was one for all time...your memories of that event?

LM - I remember that when it was over in the third round I realized that I hadn't had time to breathe.

DT - Who were you working the fight with from HBO?

LM - Barry Tompkins and Ray Leonard....great fight.

DT - The Hagler/Hearns fight would be second only to the first Ali/Frazier fight....

LM - I was at that fight too. I covered the fight for the New York Post. It was certainly the biggest boxing event I had ever covered. It had been building for several years. The Vietnam war was still on and there was a lot of social and political turmoil here at home. Ali and Frazier were viewed as representing both sides of the turmoil. It was a giant event that transcended sports on a global scale. The expectations were so great because Frazier was a highly respected admired crowd pleasing fighter and Ali was Ali who was good at hyping a fight. He was also a political and social lighting rod. True the expectations were high for the fight and they exceeded the expectations on a grand scale.

DT - Larry, this Saturday, February 4th, HBO will broadcast a terrific fight card from Texas - Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. takes on Marco Antonio Rubio in a Middleweight bout but first up will be Nonito Donaire vs. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Let's first discuss Chavez Jr.?

LM - If he is a serious force in boxing then this is the kind of opponent he should beat. There are many people who believe that Rubio is a serious opponent who could expose Chavez Jr. Not everybody is completely sold on Chavez Jr. even though he has done well in his last two Middleweight fights. He is under the microscope because of his name and the popularity that has resulted from being the son of a boxing legend. This fight could tell us if he is his own man evolving in his own way and has the right stuff to be taken seriously as a elite fighter.

DT - Larry, your thoughts about Marco Antonio Rubio? He is coming off a string of knockouts.

LM - He has looked very good. He is a tough, smart boxer who has fought some very good fighters.....early last year he upset David Lemieux, the French Canadian. He is a tough guy and we will see if he can bring out something better in Chavez Jr. who is becoming with Canelo Alvarez one of the young stars in the sport.

DT - Many boxing fans would love to see Chavez Jr. vs. Saul Alvarez on HBO PPV. Any chance of that ever happening?

LM - Ever is a long time but I would assume that it would inevitably happen. There are some issues like different promoters but if there is enough money to be made then the issues would be brushed aside. If Chavez looks impressive beating Rubio he may wind up fighting Cotto and who knows what direction Alvarez will take.

DT - Before we discuss the Donaire/Vasquez Jr. fight, which will open the HBO card this Saturday, how about your take on a possible Mayweather/ Pacquiao fight in June?

LM - From everything I can glean, they are not working on the fight for the immediate future. We will see what happens in the fall. For the immediate future they both appear to be going in different directions. They both make a lot of money without having to fight each other.

DT - I bring up that fact when asked how they can turn down so much money. Mayweather is the top PPV draw on HBO and Pacquiao can fight almost anyone and draw over a million views on HBO PPV.

LM - The danger is that other events happen that would cause the fight not to be attractive or not happen at all. One of the fighters could lose their next fight or Manny may decide that he wants to be President of the Philippines. I don't claim to be an expert on that matter and I don't know of any expert.

DT - Let's discuss the main event....Donaire vs. Vasquez Jr....

LM - Chavez Jr. and Rubio are the main event but that's okay because once the night starts, it's up to the fighters to decide which will be the main event. Donaire has many fans because he is a puncher with good boxing skills. Potentially his fans look at him as another version of Pacquiao who is capable of moving up in weight class and being successful.

DT - Vasquez Jr. has only lost once and that was to Jorge Arce on the undercard of the Mosley/Pacquiao bout last year. How do you see his chances against Donaire?

LM - Vasquez has some real ability. Donaire is moving up in weight and you never know when that becomes an important, decisive factor. Donaire's big wins have come against 115 pounders. Both of these guys are two exciting young fighters who could become prime time players in the game.

DT - Larry, earlier you spoke about Donaire taking the path of Pacquiao and moving up in weight. When and if Donaire moves up in weight standing in his path will be two pretty good boxers....Adrien Broner and Gary Russell Jr. who fans would love to see fighting on HBO. Is Donaire in that class of fighters?

LM - That's what we will find out. Maybe they are not in Donaire's class. If Donaire is capable of winning at 122 and they try him at 126 there are a lot of fighters in the Featherweight divisions that he could make some good fights. That's one of the questions that will be answered this Saturday....can he carry his punch or power against the bigger guys.

DT - Donaire will be 30 this year and it would appear it's time for him to take on tougher competition to make some serious money?

LM - That's what Saturday's fight is about. Staying in the moment.....he could find himself with his hands full against Vasquez. It's nice to anticipate what's next but what's next for Donaire is a tough fight this Saturday evening.

DT - Very true. All boxing fans will be looking forward to the card presented by HBO and of course at the end of the night we will have a better perspective of the skills of both Chavez and Donaire. It promises to be a great night of fighting and leads to bigger and better fights during the year 2012.

LM - You and I both!

***David Tyler replies to all his e-mails and loves to hear from the readers. Comments, Questions, Suggestions, E-mail David now at:

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