Larry Merchant will end his 35-year run as an HBO boxing commentator Saturday in calling the Nonito Donaire-Jorge Arce junior-featherweight title bout.
“I find some poetic symmetry in going out on what’s not a major event, but just another fight,” Merchant said Thursday before boarding a flight from LAX to Houston for the bout. “That’s what I do: call the fights.”
Merchant’s two-year deal to provide commentary ends at the calendar year, and HBO can now call upon him for three years as a self-described “Tom Brokaw-like senior kibbitzer,” who’ll weigh in on boxing news and big fights.
Los Angeles sports radio talk-show host Max Kellerman will now assume the full-time ringside commentator and ringside interviewer role alongside play-by-play broadcaster Jim Lampley.
“I feel beyond lucky to have a 35-year run on this one TV show -- that just doesn’t happen in this business,” Merchant said. “I’m not retiring. I see myself as a work in progress, and I’m curious about what my next adventure will be in the media: writing, producing, Internet?
“If they had offered me a 35-year extension to stay at HBO, I would’ve probably considered it. But I’m OK with this.”
Merchant’s final pay-per-view bout last Saturday ranks as one of the greatest fights he’s ever covered, he said, as Juan Manuel Marquez came back from a fifth-round knockdown to knock Manny Pacquiao out, leaving his rival briefly unconscious at the end of the sixth.
“I don’t know that it gets any better than last weekend, but Leonard-Hearns, Leonard-Hagler, Tyson-Douglas, Morales-Barrera and De La Hoya-Mosley are all up there,” Merchant said.
“Even the bad ones were good. To be able to describe this colorful world – the fighters, their lives. A fighter once said to me, ‘My parents were too poor to love me.’ Sergio Martinez said he didn’t know what dinner was until he was 14.
“I don’t know about these kinds of lives, but to have a ringside seat to observe human behavior in and out of the ring … priceless. It’s a rich world of colorful characters. Every man for himself. And that brings out the best and worst in people.”