Larry Merchant's Departure Means HBO Boxing Will Never Be the Same

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2012

Larry Merchant's departure will leave a gaping hole in HBO's boxing coverage.
Larry Merchant's departure will leave a gaping hole in HBO's boxing coverage.Al Bello/Getty Images

Larry Merchant never fought a round inside the ring, but his impact on, and contributions to, the sport of boxing are legendary. 

Merchant, 81, will step down from his analyst position with HBO after this Saturday's junior featherweight title fight between Nonito Donaire and Jorge Arce at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

And with his departure will come the end of an era for boxing fans, many of whom grew up with HBO and came to rely on Merchant for his quick wit and often blunt pronouncements on the fight game. 

Without a doubt, it just won't be the same.

In his 35-year career with HBO, the Brooklyn native called literally hundreds of big fights and shared his opinions on virtually every fighter of the past four decades. 

He was never shy and often found his viewpoints at odds with conventional wisdom, and on occasion with his employer. It was definitely not appreciated that he constantly called out the "house" fighter. 

This would often put him at odds with his more "company-oriented" fellow analysts and made for some fascinating interactions during telecasts.

His interview style was often described by his fans as candid and hard-hitting and by his detractors as agitational and insensitive.

In the past, Merchant feuded with such luminaries as Oscar De La Hoya and more recently Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Both star fighters reportedly attempted, without success, to have him removed from HBO broadcasts of their fights.

One of the most famous moments of his career came in the aftermath of Mayweather's controversial fourth-round knockout win over Victor Ortiz.

Merchant, who was critical of the way the fight ended, pressured Mayweather in the ring to respond to fans who were booing him for taking advantage of the situation.

After an expletive-laced outburst directed his way, Merchant, exhibiting his customary unwillingness to back down, dropped one of the most famous quotes in recent boxing history.

"I wish I was 50 years younger and I'd kick your ass."

It was vintage Merchant, and whether you felt it was appropriate or not, you couldn't deny being entertained.

Not all of his witticisms were quite so blunt, but they were right on the mark more often than not.

An example of his analytical mind is seen in how he described Bernard Hopkins during his first fight with Jermain Taylor.

"One time, Hopkins was a lion who chased down his prey. Now, he's a lion who waits in the weeds for his prey to come to him."

He also poked fun at the often reckless, wrecking-ball style of former heavyweight champion Samuel Peter.

"Peter comes from the old school of swing in case you hit something."

You could literally scour the endless list of fights that Larry Merchant has called in his illustrious career and find thousands of these types of quotes.

Some are witty, some are analytical and some are borderline inappropriate. 

But he'd never take back a single one and he'd apologize for nothing.

And that's exactly what made him the greatest television boxing analyst in history.

Wherever his career takes him next, and he has said he plans on remaining active in boxing news and reporting, HBO boxing broadcasts will never be the same without him.

For many, Larry Merchant was as integral a part of the boxing experience as the fights and the fighters themselves.

He was truly one of a kind, never compromising and never boring.

For all the memories and great moments, thank you, Larry Merchant. There will never be another quite like you.