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Larry Merchant isn't finished with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

BOXING

The HBO boxing analyst, who had a contentious interview with the boxer in September, will help call his fight against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas on Saturday.

May 01, 2012|By Lance Pugmire

There will be a rematch.

At the end of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s controversial, borderline-sucker-punch victory over Victor Ortiz in September, HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant's post-fight interview with Mayweather took a personal turn.

Mayweather accused Merchant of never giving him a break, and said angrily that HBO should fire the now 81-year-old, to which Merchant replied, "If I was 50 years younger, I'd kick your [rear]."

When Mayweather returns to the ring Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas against world super-welterweight champion Miguel Cotto, Merchant will help call the action, and has been assigned to post-fight interview duty even though the sport's top power broker has said he doesn't want to talk to the man.

Are you surprised you got this assignment given HBO's reputation for catering to the wishes of Mayweather and his team?

"I wasn't surprised. It's an entertaining sidebar to the main event, and I think it's the right choice."

Why?

"In part because of people's expectations of a 'rematch,' or something like that. What happened last September went viral and there's a natural curiosity about it."

Did Floyd have a point about your criticism of him, or is he being overly sensitive?

"He's had this problem with other media people. I'm not the only one in this club. Anybody who does what we do — ask questions and push for answers, who aren't part of his fan club or worship him … can be perceived as the enemy. For me, it's not personal and it's not a popularity contest. It's just doing what needs to be done to get the story. There are no hard questions if you have the answers. I don't think I'm any tougher on him than anyone else. Perhaps one issue is he presents himself as the villain before the fight, and then wants everyone to turn on a dime and adore him immediately after."

Who do you like to win this fight?

"Mayweather is a big favorite to win in part because he's never lost and in part because there's a general view that he's too proficient and efficient for a fighter of Cotto's style — a guy with some boxing skills and some talent for brawling. It doesn't mean that can't change in the real world of what will happen in the ring that night. But Mayweather has been so prudent in picking his opponents after defeating [Oscar] De La Hoya [in 2007], there's a built-in sense that 'If he agreed to fight Cotto, he must be 1,000% sure he's going to win.' Cotto's had a terrific career, he's fought everybody who's been available to him, but there's a question about his best being in the past."

Cotto's ability to conquer fatigue appears to be the greatest concern, don't you think?

"We don't know whether stamina will be an issue. It's been an issue. But if he gives us some tough, hard rounds and makes it a fight, maybe the big-ness of the occasion lifts him up. He's a real professional prizefighter, but he's had a lot of hard fights too, put it that way."

Since we're not getting Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, which fight will be better: the one Saturday or the June 9 Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley bout?

"There's a body of opinion Pacquiao-Bradley will be a surprise, in which the favorite will have a harder time dominating. Bradley is a tough, awkward, clever opponent and there are questions about whether Pacquiao is still the force he has been. There is more hope for a surprise in that one."

Do you think if Mayweather and Pacquiao win, they'll fight each other in the fall?

"The card is built for Mayweather to set up a fight versus [Saul] 'Canelo' [Alvarez, who's defending his own super-welterweight title against Shane Mosley on the May 5 undercard]. It couldn't be more graphic, that if Canelo looks good and given his standing as a young star among the largest market of boxing fans, that seems to be the direction Mayweather is pointing. They're not hiding it. They're virtually advertising it. ... The idea that both Mayweather and Pacquiao have made huge amounts of money versus other opponents who are less threatening makes it a disincentive to make the fight everyone wants to see. Mayweather can fight Canelo in the fall, and Pacquiao can fight the [Juan Manuel] Marquez-[Brandon] Rios winner. ... They have these options to make tens of millions of dollars, and the longer the fight doesn't get made, the more likely something will happen that it won't get made."

So we'll have to settle for you asking Floyd about going to jail [on a domestic violence conviction] after the fight?

"It's certainly an unusual story. I don't remember that scenario playing out. It's part of the narrative of this event. I don't make a list of questions to ask before a fight. I follow the event."

And the ultimate question: Could you have really kicked Floyd's [rear] when you were 50 years younger?

"If I snuck up behind him and he wasn't looking, yeah, I probably could've kicked his [rear]. Otherwise, I have my doubts."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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