Jaded, cynical and hypercritical. HBO Boxing voice Larry Merchant has been called all of those things during his long run on the prime cable network.
(Come to think of it, those qualities are why the prime cable network pays Uncle Larry a handsome salary, eh, wot?)
But, like me, Merchants admits to being intrigued as to whether British loudmouth David Hayemaker will prove to be ground chuck or filet mignon quality in his momentous July 2 heavyweight title brawl against the so formidable Wladimir Klitschko.
Merchant will be on the mike from Hamburg and, if there is only one thing the former Philadelphia and New York sports columnist (check out his nifty books, “National Football Lottery” and “Life Is A S—- Sandwich, Every Day You Take Another Bite” on Amazon and other booksellers) is sure of it’s that, despite his constant statements, Haye will not retire if victorious.
“Why would he? If he beats Wladimir, he’ll be offered tens of millions of dollars to fight brother Vitali,” Merchant said Friday night.
“With fighters talking about quitting the ring, I like to say they mean it when they say it and then they mean it when they change their mind. I’ll say this about Haye, he’s been a brilliant salesman in getting this big fight and then in selling it.”
Merchant sees Haye having a chance to win but goes deep into the Wayback Machine to find an analogous ring result.
“Will Haye’s chin hold up, we don’t know. What we do know is he’s never been tested against such a big, strong and talented heavyweight opponent. Klitschko is so bigger, strong but, just maybe, Haye can be the smaller Jack Dempsey beating the bigger Jess Willard.”
Merchant harkened back to Haye’s nonstop promotional hype.
“Trash talking, at least for Haye, equals more cash. But I guess we can’t know now if Haye has gotten into Wladimir’s head. Wlad has been masterful in carrying himself as a sportsman who views fighting as just that, a sport.
“But the only way it can be said Haye got into his head if all the talk provokes Klitschko into going out of his usual style. If Klitschko gets out of his usual, very durable, calm and collected style, if in some way Haye provokes that and then can get take advantage of it…”
Having said that, it doesn’t elude wise, old head Merchant that Klitschko publicly expressed irritation with Haye’s namecalling, general bad manners and teeshirts depicting beheaded Klitschkos may just be another part of selling the event in Germany. That’s a good point, what with 44 countries said to be taking the fight on TV.
“Wlad, at age 35, he’s smart enough to do that,” Merchant said. “But we’ve never seen him respond publicly to this kind of provocation before.”
Merchant is more skeptical about another underdog, veteran Zab Judah in his July 23 bout against the UK’s Freddie Roach-trained Amir Khan.
“Convention wisdom has it that Judah has a puncher’s chance. But, quite often, what people are really saying on that is that this fighter does not have a big chance.”
But Merchant does not completely discount the up and down southpaw Brooklyn battler.
“Despite poor efforts against (Carlos) Baldomir, (Kostya) Tszyu and (Floyd) Mayweather, Zab has been able to work his way to meaningful fights,” Merchant said. “He’s had the ability to rebound like this, somewhat mysteriously.”
And the Old Sage has spoken.
History shows us to carefully heed the words of WOPO, the Wise, Old Philadelphia Owl.