HBO boxing analyst, interviewer, and mainstay Larry Merchant will call his final fight for the cable network Saturday night when Nonito Donaire faces Jorge Arce. The 81 year old commentator has been with HBO since 1978 and has stood as one of the last remaining mainstream voices of boxing. He was also a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and New York Post in his sportswriting career.
"Larry Merchant will end his unprecedented 35-year run as a ringside boxing commentator for HBO Sports with the season finale of World Championship Boxing® this Saturday night (9:30 p.m. ET/PT) from Houston. Following the telecast, Merchant will be moving into another phase of his wide-ranging career.
"Starting in January, I will become a Tom Brokaw-like senior kibbitzer on major news and events in boxing," Merchant said, adding,"I was extraordinarily lucky to land with HBO when it was just a startup. I'm proud to be associated with so many talented people who made us into a groundbreaking network. I'm looking forward now to my new role and to new adventures in television, writing and the expanding media universe.""
After alternating a number of events, Max Kellerman will take over Merchant's role full time after Saturday night as analyst and post-fight interviewer, which is a huge opportunity for the original host of Around the Horn. The resurrection of Kellerman's career is a fascinating subplot as he has totally rebounded from the days of I, Max.
It's almost impossible to put Larry Merchant's career in full perspective. He was unique in that he wasn't a former athlete, coach, or trainer, and yet he was able to carve out a career as a television analyst. You just don't see that anymore, the closest anyone even attempted to come in the last decade was Tony Kornheiser... and we all know how that turned out.
As someone who grew up watching plenty of big fights on HBO (although that number has sadly decreased in the last 20 years with boxing's decline), there was something about Merchant's presence that always tied together what you were watching. Although in his later years he was never the quickest on the draw and he had his fair share of critics, I always appreciated Merchant's work. Whether it was offering perspective on the latest boxing controversy or tragedy or going toe to toe with Floyd Mayweather, I always found him to provide something worthwhile. HBO Boxing is not going to be the same without him.