Larry Merchant Interview: Part Two – “Nobody In America Knows Who Deontay Wilder Is”

By William Trillo

In Part Two of our interview Merchant picks up right where he left off by closing the book on Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev and what could be in store in regard to a rematch. Merchant then discussed topics from speculating who will be boxing’s next Superstar to the Heavyweights and more.

Check out what boxing’s long time premier commentator had to say:

Will Anyone Have Interest In A Kovalev Vs. Ward Rematch?

I would say no given the nature of the fight but I would also say if they have a rematch clause you can be pretty sure that Kathy Duva will make every effort to make it happen. I don’t know if it rose to the level of being a controversy, but with the fact that so many people thought Kovalev won, maybe Duva can get a more international jury on the fight. I think she basically blew that one (Having the fight in Las Vegas). Kathy thought that since Kovalev fought more of his fights there, more than Ward…well I don’t know if it became part of the discussion or not but I believe Duva had a little more faith in the system than she does right now. Maybe the rematch will be in New York or maybe even back in Las Vegas. They had a pretty good house for that fight and there is no reason that they couldn’t go back there.

I believe some of this has to do with Ward’s contract with ROC Nation. I am not sure of the contract but it would be interesting to know whether he got a guarantee against earnings for X number of fights or whether he got a bonus. I believe Cotto had a guarantee of fifteen million dollars or more for two fights. So if they (ROC Nation) think he can fight a heavyweight, a David Haye for instance, not a Super Heavyweight but a Heavyweight, and think that would generate bucks then they probably would pay off Kovalev to stand by and wait for the next fight. Things like that can happen.

Who May Be Boxing’s Next Big Breakout Superstar?

The obvious parallel is and I don’t know if it’s going to be better, but the competition in the lower weight classes, around the welterweights, Terrance Crawford may have a better chance of arousing interest. Timothy Bradley was unable to. Bradley is a B-side and he made good money because he is a good fighter and fought everybody. But I don’t know. I am not sure about Crawford. Arum knows and Arum is patient. It took a long time before Mayweather was able to achieve that. Maybe there is a chance, if Crawford goes out there and fights and beats Pacquiao maybe that becomes a changing of the guard and he steps up. But we have to remember that when Pacquiao found that fan base and became an international star he had nine or ten fights against established Mexican stars in that weight class, and it was one drama after another. That (drama) has to be there.

It is what it is and historically somebody emerges. If boxing made a big comeback in Britain, which is why so many American fighters are looking to fight British fighters, because they crystallize an audience over there, then it’s not going to take all that much for something similar to happen here, you know somebody who pops out.

In terms of the media status in the USA Boxing is like Broadway, it needs its “Hamilton” to come along and revive the sport. A show like “Hamilton” comes along and transcends the world of theatre and entertainment and it becomes a big thing. So, it’s like having a heavyweight champion who transcends the world, and that is what boxing needs right now.

Boxing in Britain, where boxing originated as we know it, was comatose for decades. But suddenly along came Lennox Lewis and and Prince Naseem and Joe Calzaghe followed by Froch, Khan and Brook. Now you add their new heavyweights Fury and Joshua as well as well as Haye and suddenly your thinking, “Where did this happen, how did this go?”

Whether that’s possible in the USA I don’t know but it does run in cycles. One of the many times boxing was given a wake was before Muhammad Ali came on the scene. Then you had you a Leonard and De La Hoya and so on.

Does Boxing Have A Chance For Resurgence In 2017?

It’s a pretty low bar. If Canelo and Golovkin and Jacobs get into some kind of a Round Robin, where for example Jacobs fights Golovkin and then Golvkin fights Canelo then that would be exciting. And there could be something happening in the welterweight divisions with a couple of good fights there that are possible.

I am looking forward to Crawford doing some serious fights next year and for the welterweight division to come alive, it has so many good fighters in it. Crawford is a pleasant and interesting guy but the combination of opportunity and body language and performance that means the stars are aligned and you can somehow transcend a championship fighter into being a star fighter…well there are many champions but there are very few stars. Does Crawford have that? I don’t think it’s a natural for his personality, which is pleasant enough, that it could make him a star. But he has got to get a chance to go out and fight the top welterweights. Or fight a guy like Pacquiao and if he can perform well he will have a chance of becoming must see TV.

On The Heavyweight Picture

I thought we had something going with the heavyweights before Fury imploded. I like Anthony Joshua, he has star quality. With the way he looks in the ring, his statuesque appearance, he has that star quality. Whether or not he has the stuff to be a star as a fighter remains to be seen because he really hasn’t been pushed to the limit and tested.

But when you had a character like Fury and a rematch with Klitschko and you have Wilder coming up and Ortiz, there are some talented guys out there you figure somebody is going to emerge and capture our attention. But right now it seems scattered again and I do not know what the fight would be at the moment where everybody would agree and say, “OK, he is the heavyweight champion.” Maybe Joshua against Klitschko, but Klitschko is coming off a loss. I like Joshua but I want to see what happens when he gets hit and how he responds.

Wilder has a style that could work (against Joshua) but he is in his early thirties already and nobody knows who he is. Nobody in America knows who Wilder is.

But if Joshua were to fight Klitschko and win and then challenge Wilder, or vice versa, then that would become a major event and maybe good things would come out of it.

But what if we have a real heavyweight champion and nobody knows him?

On Going To Bernard Hopkins Last Fight

I doubt I will be going. I like Bernard, I think he is a cockeyed marvel as a dedicated fighter who has amazing self discipline…but his fights bore the crap out of me for the most part. Just the fact that he is old and in great shape is something to celebrate. But when the fight starts he is not looking to get hit. He once told me, “Larry you are never going to see me getting beat up!” Well Kovalev changed that a little, but I assume they have an opponent now who is more qualified keep him in the fight. I will probably watch it, I don’t think I am going to go see it, but I might change my mind.

Merchant may have not made up his mind on attending Hopkins last fight or not but it’s pretty obvious he has his mind made up on the current state of boxing. When you put all his thoughts together it seems clear Merchant is looking for a breakout star to enter and bring the game back to the forefront. Like Merchant we hope this star emerges sooner rather than later…boxing needs a good shot in the arm.

In closing we here at Pound4Pound would like to thank Mr. Merchant for giving us some his valuable time and insight.

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One Response to “Larry Merchant Interview: Part Two – “Nobody In America Knows Who Deontay Wilder Is””

  1. David McGarry says:

    In any sport, if you want excitement you need rivalry. With boxing, the competition starts with the promoters. Britain is booming because it has two big promoters trying to outdo each other, plus smaller outfits that are hungry for business.

    Mainland Europe is dominated by Sauerland, and that is one of the reasons continental fighters are not doing so well.

    America has one giant promoter, one smaller promoter that lost most of its star fighters and key management to the upstart giant, plus a number of smaller promoters who focus on the talent in just one region. Boxing will not revive in America until a new rivalry emerges.