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Merchant’s Fabrication Warrants a Reprimand

While HBO boxing color commentator Larry Merchant may not be a reporter, he is a professional broadcaster and with the role comes the responsibility of being accurate and truthful.

In claiming during this past Saturday during HBO’s telecast of Antonio Margarito vs. Shane Mosley that Oscar De La Hoya received $5 million to appear at Affliction/M-1 Global’sDay of Reckoning,” Merchant spewed what was nothing more than a fabrication in its purest form.

Unlike Mr. Merchant, I did my research. I called multiple sources on Monday in an attempt to verify Merchant’s claim. Everyone I spoke to denied the claim and most acted surprised that I would even bother to ask whether Merchant’s remark was legitimate or not. The tone expressed by some in response to my question was essentially, “Do you really need to ask me this?”

But as someone in the role of a reporter, I really did need to ask someone about it. It’s a shame that Merchant didn’t feel the same way. I don’t believe Merchant made the number up and I believe that he actually heard the number come out of someone’s mouth. Where Merchant is likely at fault is that he didn’t even bother to verify the accuracy of the claim. If he had done his job properly and had made a few phone calls, he would have saved himself from embarrassment.

If he would have done his homework, he would he learned that Affliction’s payroll for “Day of Reckoning” was a disclosed $4.7 million and that the idea of paying someone a fee that superseded that amount just to appear was completely asinine.

If Merchant would have done his job properly, he would have learned that Golden Boy Promotions received a six-figure amount to help promote and produce this past Saturday’s event and that the fee De La Hoya’s promotional company received to be involved with the event was well shy of the number offered by Merchant.

Merchant’s motive for purveying such a mis-truth is quite clear: he hates MMA with a passion. That’s great; we get it, Larry. But since when does your disdain for a sport put you in a position where you can neglect your responsibilities as a broadcaster to be accurate? What gives Larry Merchant the authority to make such a libelous statement?

If Margarito vs. Mosley had been airing opposite the Super Bowl and De La Hoya was in Tampa as opposed to Los Angeles and Merchant made the same inaccurate claim, he’d be in serious trouble. Not only would HBO be all over him but so would the NFL. If Larry Merchant walks away from this without so much as a slap on the wrist, it will be a true crime. It will also send the message that you can use HBO’s airwaves to make irresponsible claims so long as the network sees the victim of your mis-truth as a threat.

But the use of “mis-truth” might not be just in this context, as Merchant went on the air Saturday night in front of an audience of millions and essentially told what was a bold face lie. Since many at HBO share in Merchant’s disgust for MMA, the odds of a reprimand of any kind taking place are almost non-existent. However, what Merchant did was wrong and no matter what HBO thinks of MMA, such a blatant inaccuracy is unacceptable.

HBO has blazed a trail of presenting combat sports in a state-of-the-art form for decades and is better than Merchant’s gross inaccuracy. If the award winning premium-based cable network wants to preserve its high-standard of excellence, it will address the matter with Merchant. They will then ask him to explain why he said what he said and if he’s unable to produce evidence to support his claim, he will be forced to issue a retraction in the form of a statement issued on HBO letterhead.

Unfortunately, as wrong as Merchant was, MMA fans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for an apology or a retraction. However, they can take some solace in this: HBO’s reputation was damaged a lot more Saturday night by Merchant’s statement than MMA’s.

44 COMMENTS
  • VENOM says:

    Awesome! Yet another reason for me to avoid boxing. That, and the immense boredom! :-)

  • Eric says:

    Great article Sam. Larry’s quote pissed me off Saturday, and it’s great to see that others were offended too.

  • Tyler says:

    Merchant has always been a windbag and like his counterpart Jim Lampley both have an agenda to paint boxing in a good light since that’s their meal ticket and at the same time to bash MMA which I’m sure they know nothing about.

  • Bill Lumberg says:

    Wait ..there was a boxing match on Saturday night?

  • Mike says:

    Sam,
    The funny thing is, Larry Merchant, was a long time reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News and wrote a few books. I can’t believe a guy who I had respect for would stoop to that level. Just by trying to bash MMA, Larry Merchant and Jim Lamply, show how ignorant they are of the sport. They see the meteoric rise of MMA and joke the heavy weight division in boxing has become and it scares them. Without a strong heavy weight division boxing is not in the national spotlight. No matter how great Shane Mosely, Antonio Margarito, Manny Paquiao, B-Hop, Kelly Pavalik and Israel Vasquez are they are only going to be know by true boxing fans. The fall of the heavy weight division and the retirement (but for how long) of Floyd Mayweather has pushed boxing out of the front pages of the sports section. Athletes who may have gone to boxing are now starting to look for the local jui jitsu studio or going for the school wrestling team because of the exposure of MMA. Even though the big events are on PPV there is still enough free MMA on TV to attract a younger audience. There is not much free boxing on, other than Tuesday or Friday night fights on ESPN. Unfortunately the attention span of the average young person will not make it through 3 rounds of a boring fight. MMA offers more action and excitement.

    I also get annoyed at how Merchant and Lampley downgrade the fighters. Professional MMA fighters are some of the most well educated athletes in all of pro sports. These men and women must become experts in various forms of fighting not just boxing. I am a huge boxing and MMA fan, but Lampley and Merchant are really starting to become like the annoying old men in the neighborhood who yell at the kids for being too loud. Completely out of touch.

  • NJMMAFAN says:

    Man MMA seems more and more about witchhunts and he said she saids and less about who fights who…Who honestly gives a shit what this guy said. I dont even know who he his, but fuck him. Did him saying DLH got 5 mill for showing saturday give your family cancer? Isnt this an MMA website. what does this tool have to do with my ability to watch athletes compete. boxings dead. their biggest star became a pro wrestler, while pro wrestlings star became a champ in a real sport.

  • Jay says:

    Seriously, Who cares? Merchant and Harold Letterman are senile.who gives a damn about these old farts? I turn my sound to mute when I watch HBO Boxing! Oh! By the way HBO has had two weeks of great boxing in 2009.

  • Danny says:

    Someone help me understand, please. How is what he said negative towards MMA? Why write an article about it? I watched the mosley/margarito fight after the affliction event (only because we paid for affliction) but I must have missed that. Did he go on to bash MMA as a sport? Or simply say that De La Hoya was given an appearance fee? I just don’t understand the need to chastise him for this.

  • Joey says:

    I love boxing and have watched it for years, but Larry Merchant has driven me nuts since day one. I remember when he almost got let go and they were going to put Kellerman on championship boxing in replacement and there was a mini-outrage among the insane. I can’t make it through one of Merchants ten minute long, nonsensical statements. It’s hard to blame someone whos degenerative alcoholism has taken such a toll though . . . well, as the polite people say “he’s a a wine afficionado”

    Lampley beats up Miss America contestants.

    HBO, get rid of these two, put in Kellerman

  • Echolocating says:

    How did Merchant damage the sport of MMA again?

  • Jesse Holland says:

    I wonder how long Captain Decrepit was holding on to that little nugget, just licking his chops prior to the broadcast waiting for his chance to hammer that punchline home.

    Merchant is so outdated and irrelevant only the inside people still find him entertaining. I guess not unlike boxing in that respect…

  • Aric Davis says:

    There I was, midway between a shockingly good Affliction card and a wonderfully-albeit with a bad ending-put together WEC and there stood Moseley/Margarito.

    I’m one of those MMA fans that enjoys both sports. I certainly prefer MMA but a good boxing match like the one proffered on Saturday do appeal to me. Twenty minutes in, just ten minutes after I’d cleared the drunks out of my house from the affliction party and five since I’d put the wife to bed, Merchant says that bs and Lampley, drunken, wife beating, pot smoking Lampley laughs.

    I like these guys as announcers and I’ve ignored their bias in the past. No self-respecting basketball commentator would rag on baseball in a non-strike year. No hockey prognosticator would bash football. This shameful, shameful stuff and should not be allowed to lie low. Dana’s decision to not broadcast on HBO makes more sense every time these two flap gums.

  • rob says:

    I’m going to give Merchant a mulligan on this one. He obviously has a hate on for MMA and the Golden Boy but the guy has never pulled any punches. I remember him calling out Bruce Seldon after a phantom KO at the hands of Mike Tyson.
    In the post fight interview , Merchant asked Seldon at least twice to show him on the video replay where a suficient KO blow had landed.
    He may be an old wind bag but he rarely misses any tricks.

  • themindone says:

    merhcant was senile 10 years ago..

  • Jonathan Snowden says:

    I have a Larry Merchant action figure.

  • Lord Faust says:

    You can smell the fear permeating the old guard of combat sports. It’s so thick man, you can spread it on toast.

    I love it. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll be (hopefully) seeing some awesome combat sports — in both venues.

  • Jackyl says:

    Nice job calling them out Sam! I noticed this when I watched the fight Saturday night. The comment didn’t make much sense when he said it. Great work following up and getting the real scoop. He also referred to Affliction as “a t-shirt company”. I guess he’s been sharing cocktails with Dana White. I think Merchant’s comments reflect the ignorance that most of the general public have about the sport. We obviously have a long way to go, especially with boxing purists. What’s funny is I would say most MMA fans were or have been boxing fans. I am still a huge boxing fan. But that appreciation is not reciprocated by boxing fans. There is this intense hatred for MMA and the reason for that is they are afraid. What do you do when you are afraid of something? Attack it. What do you do when you don’t understand something? Attack it. These people find fault with MMA, yet they are fine with watching two guys punch each other in the face until someone falls over. Look at the host of punch drunk boxers out there. Have you seen Riddick Bowe lately? If not, take my word for it he’s in pretty bad shape. Our only hope is for more people to get educated and understand the sport more.

  • CMT says:

    First of all Affliction is a t-shirt company. Check out their website. Boxing had its time. We used to get together and have parties and watch boxing. Now MMA is our sport of preference. MMA is more colorful and entertaining. Since I watched my first MMA fight, I have been hooked. Let this guy say what he wants. At the office no was talking about Saturdays boxing match, they were discussing MMA. These are the same people who quit watching boxing and started watching MMA. When I was growing up, boxing was for the inner city kids. There were no boxing gyms within 25 miles of my house. With the explosion of MMA, there are many schools offering it. They may not be the best, but you can still train. Boxing is dead, MMA is the future and anyone can participate.

  • JJ says:

    Sam,

    Thanks a lot for clearing this up, I was discussing this throughout the night and heard the $5 million figure thrown out there and couldn’t believe it.

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    I wonder whether Golden Boy, Affliction or De La Hoya will pursue this. A letter from a lawyer threatening a defamation lawsuit might force a retraction from HBO. There’s probably no money in it, but there may be some publicity in it. Affliction hasn’t done a very good job of marketing its MMA events, so it could use a little profile.

  • Nick says:

    merchant bugs me at the best of times and listening to him speak or, heaven forbid, interview someone makes me cringe…..very unprofessional of him but not the worst thing he could have said.

    on a side note, awesome fight, sugar shane was on his game big time!!!

  • Yao Ming says:

    Merchant is an old fart who seems punch drunk himself. Watching him give interviews or even try to talk in pre-fight build up is like watching a monkey hump a football, it’s a huge cluster! The old man is at the end of his time and he sees a sport in mma coming in and demolishing boxing and everything pure he has believed in. He should receive punishment in some form for not doing the proper work involved, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

  • bubbafat says:

    Ditto, Mike Wolfe. Oscar’s gotta speak up. MMA is an investment for him, so let’s see him help defend it.

  • john says:

    Its more then annoying to see these jealous announcers, promoters, fighters, boxing enthusiasts in general getting jealous like 17 year old girls that didn’t win homecoming queen just because of how big MMA is getting. They take every chance to bash MMA (without any knowledge of it) just because they know there sport is dying. Don’t get me wrong i still watch boxing and mma but whats happened with boxing over the past 10 – 15 years is what rubbed everyone wrong, which is why they shouldn’t be pointing the finger anywhere. I listen to sports radio all the time here (portland, or) and they always have famed boxing writer Bert Sugar on and they bash MMA for like 5 minutes every show and you can tell the extent of their knowledge was flipping through the channels and seeing MMA once.

  • Ben says:

    Merchant wasn’t fabricating anything. He never said the money was to make an appearance for that one event.

    Please read his statement. He even confirmed the statement on monday and gave his source for the statement (golden boys CEO). In fact even Golden Boys guy confirmed afflictions financial commitment.

    The only denial was that Oscar was paid 5m just to appear at that one event, which Merchant never said.

  • James says:

    for anyone on here who is mad at Merchant for his comments I understand, no problem there. To say boxing is dead, well then fuck you cuz the staple center just had it’s biggest crowd EVER for any event. By the way were you fuckin babies on here cryin when Joe(don’t no shit) Rogan was on Sports Center kickin dirt on boxing. Boxing is boreing Venom, why, cuz you like watchin grown men rollin around in their underwear.

  • screwface says:

    im fan of both boxing and mma, and that mosley fight was dam good. larry merchant is always saying things that are borderline retarded, and thats part of the reason why i love him. hes like that racist grandfather at thanksgiving with tourette syndrome, just makes u laugh balls with the random shi* that pops out of his mouth. no1 takes him seriously and u shouldnt either sam. he even sorta bashed mma saying something like u couldnt pay me to go one of those events during the broadcast. i think the funniest things i ever seen was a mayweather fight , i forget which one, but after the fight larry interviewed him in an insulting way, and mayweather gave him a verbal knock out on tv. was just classic. anyway dont take anything the oldman says seriously, just take it as comedy. i do.

  • James says:

    Not to bash MMA. I have been watching UFC since before they had fuckin weight classes. But it seems like all MMA fans do is hate on boxing and predict the end of the sport. The Ring Magazine has actually had good articles on MMA but MMA does nothing but try to hate on boxing as you can tell by most of the dumb fucks leaving comments on here. At the last Shogun fight in Ireland there were two boxers their showing support. So to the strictly MMA fans, its ok to like more then just MMA and fuckin your dog in the poop shoot.

  • kidneybeans says:

    The craziest thing to me about this whole story is how many people believed it and continue to believe it. The forums on another popular mma website are going nuts on this story claiming it signifies a clear end to Affliction.

    Larry Merchant is perhaps the most hateful, unhappy man to ever be employed as a sportscaster. I don’t recall him ever having a kind word to say about someone in boxing let alone mma so it really surprises me that anyone believes anything this guy has to say, especially about mma.

    Maybe HBO would have something to say about it if some of us decided to cancell our subscriptions, though I doubt it.

  • john says:

    James Golden Boy Enterprises owns The Ring magazine, so I am not so shocked they’ve decided to paint the sport a little better as of late.

  • James says:

    CMT says it on here best. Boxing has always been dominated by latinos and blacks. The city kids from the streets box and them same kids aren’t goin anywhere. White kids have somthing to relate to now that you see a bunch of white guys in MMA and thats fine. But for the people still saleing out the Staples Center and The Garden to watch boxing, don’t say their sport is dead just cuz your circle don’t watch it anymore

  • kidneybeans says:

    wow James, intelligent stuff

  • Joey says:

    screwface, it was carlos baldomir vs mayweather

  • john says:

    Also, the Lakers sell out the Staples center all the time, could the fact that the Mosley fight having the most people ever in it had to with how small a boxing ring is compared to a full court basketball game and how many people it can hold to be considered “sold out.”

  • Cathedron says:

    I still have trouble understanding why boxing fans, promoters, etc get so defensive about MMA. It seems like part of training for boxing involves brainwashing them into hating MMA. They can’t see MMA as a different sport. They have to see it as a threat. The other martial arts have embraced MMA for the most part. Imagine if wrestlers had the attitude of boxing.

  • el boxeo says:

    IN the kevin iole article it states that****

    Merchant said on Monday that Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer told him the figure. All sides, though, insisted there was no such payment.

    “I was curious whether Oscar would make his first public appearance at a fight since Pacquiao, so I asked Richard Schaefer whether he would be there,” said Merchant about what he asked Schaefer at the prefight news conference Thursday. “Richard told me that Oscar was going to be at the MMA event because a $5 million sponsorship by the T-shirt company included his personal involvement.”

    So its not like it was out of thin air that a number was made up… could it have been that schaefer spoke out of turn or off the record…. probally…. but if you were there at staples on sat like i was , you wouldve heard the BIGGEST BOOS (when the were introducing the “stars”) for oscar de la hoya…. it was a tie between him and arnold “the IOU check writing Governor” schwarzenegger…..

    they booed him bad… and he has a statue there outside which is the funny part and that crowd was 95% hispanic…. thats probally more a reason why he wasnt there…

    i still dont understand why everybody is crying about this… think about it…you dont think that dlh is getting some type of compensation for his invovlment… affliction im sure has compensated dlh (mabye for 5 mil probally more) for his services of his company and considering that they have only done one show since he has signed on, why is it not factual to assume that he did get paid for that appearance….

    do some of you think that they didnt pay trump to show up or hype the prior events…

    the sad part was (and the part that probally merchant and other boxing people might get annoyed) is that you have your buisness partner (mosley) fighting in the biggest fight in l.a. history that is in you weight class that has nothing to do with you and you decide to go across the street to watch mma….
    its not like it was the l.a. vs. vegas where you can only be in one city….

    its funny as if nobody who has anything to do with boxing was going to call out dlh for this…. what were you expecting…

  • CMT says:

    James – I grew up around Houston and for the most part the inner city kids were black and latino. If had the money I would have caught a cab downtown to train and I am white. But that was not possible, not all white kids have money. Boxing used to be dominated by whites in the 40’s and 50’s, so your argument does not hold here. I see many ethnicities in MMA right now. It is not a sport dominated by any one group. When I say boxing is dead, I mean it is loosing widespread viewership. I took a poll in the office and 75% of the people did not know there was a boxing match on Satruday. But they had heard about the UFC replay and the Affliction event. These are people with differing backgrounds and ages. Boxing has not evolved in a long time. Most of my circle are people who used to love boxing, but have found something they like a lot better. I understand your frustration. Most of the guys who post here are educated (I least they sound like it) and passionate about MMA, so please don’t degrade them with beastiality remarks. I type this on a blackeberry, my thumbs are numb

  • el boxeo says:

    honestly i dont think this was a dig on mma as much as it was a dig on de la hoya…. i think trying to say merchant was slighting mma is a stretch….imo.. it was more ballsy to go after de la hoya who in realty has a tremendous amout of clout on hbo and pretty much is the house promotion…

    so props to merchant for calling de la hoya out…cause that takes guts… if it meant slighting mma well then i dont think that was his intention but if people want to thinkj that i guess its their right….

    and for those that think that de la hoya hasnt recieved compensation in the millions either now or in the past from affliction… dont know what to say…other than de la hoya isnt doing this FOR THE LOVE OF MMA… he is doing this partner ship for the MONEY….

    as far as repremanding merchant for his comments… it will probally will happen not because of the love for mma but because of the love for de la hoya that hbo has for him….lol

  • Joseph says:

    Nice write up Sam.

  • el boxeo says:

    to cmt…

    honestly both boxing and mma do have their stereotypical demographics…its not a bad thing because if these mma and boxing promoters are smart , they will cater to that.. its not a bad thing but it is a realty….

    at staples on sat.. there were some people that were white there but the majority of it was hispanic…and i would go further and say more natvie born hispanics (from their own country)…. im sure that the crowd 30 miles south in anaheim was probally more diverse….

    i think the bigger differnece between boxing and mma is that mma places more empahisis on the success of the organization while boxing has more emphasis on the fighter….. people didnt go this past weekend to go watch a golden boy promotion/top rank as much as people go and watch a ufc event (regardless of the fighters)

    last sat was pretty much a sellout because margartio is mexican (is popular but probally less cause it looks as if he is a cheater) and was playinig in the back yard of little mexico…. same thing in cleveland in a couple of weeks when pavlik will sell out some arena there which will be full of predominatly white people… cotto in msg =puerto rican…. hell hatton anywhere= 10k brits…

  • Jackyl says:

    No one is saying boxing is dead. I love boxing. But it is defenitely on the decline while MMA is on the rise. The boxing establishment is partly to blame for this. Think about a traditional boxing PPV. You get maybe four fights only one of which is particularly relevant. Most MMA cards are stacked top to bottom. So people feel they are getting more for their money. I almost never buy a boxing PPV just because it is usually not worth it. Also, the UFC gives us great cards on their free network broadcasts. When was the last time you saw a big blockbuster fight on ESPN? The boxing business model has a lot to do with it as well. No big name fighter wants to share the card and therefore the money with another big time fighter. Wouldn’t you love to see three big time matches on one PPV? These facts has caused boxing purists to totally go on the defensive. All they do is attack. Statements like “Guys rolling around in their underwear” is a perfect example of the ignorance that MMA fans constantly have to battle against. When you get more educated to the sport and you start understanding what actually happens on the ground you have a whole new appreciation. We also seem to forget Merchant’s follow up comment which was that you’d have to pay him 5 million to go to one of those “things”. This was a direct jab at MMA. He is implying that boxing is pure and great and MMA is a “thing”.

  • NJMMAFAN says:

    I always loved the”Two guys humping each other/making out/ wrestling in their underwear” statement from mma haters…whats boxing? two guys slapping eachother in their boxers? BBall=people throwing a ball into a hole while wearing their sleep gear? Now baseball…that makes me sick…

  • Miguel Antonio Barragan says:

    Great article, his quote pissed me off real good and she should suffer some kind of consiquence. Keep up the good work and the research to back it up!! As an amature MMAist, let me say that I was offended by Larrys claims or misinformation. That kind of thing doesn’t happen with pros like himself, Lampley, Stewart or any other broadcast team. Lampley may have his opinions, as Larry does but that doesn’t give them the right to just spil any inaccurate statements on tv and use HBO as a mic. Good job Sam, Im behind you allthe way bro!!

  • Dr.Stoppage says:

    Merchant’s comment is kinda like me say,”Ah,don’t worry about Larry Merchant,he’ll be dead soon enough.”
    INAPPROPRIATE!!!

    By the way,ain’t Lampley a wife beater?

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