Being a member of the independent media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, like most of the skulking, twitter-addicted, media-day-dwelling shills out there, we here at the Tribune can’t go out in public without having to fight adoring readers off with a tennis racket. But without the steady influx of revenue from the very subjects we’re expected to objectively cover, day jobs, odd jobs, and night jobs sometimes hampers our ability to provide our dedicated readers with the latest breaking news about everyone’s favorite sport in the “Other” section of most general sports websites.
Of course, it is well within your rights to go the usual route for your boxing news fix, or you can always get your news with just the right amount of commentary from someone lacking an agenda. Our very own Jesse Ian Lardies’ Sunday Brunch feature is also a great source for news commentary. So without further ado, let’s dive right into an eclectic mix of recent boxing headlines– some new, some old, all of them broken.
Merchant has left the building
Larry Merchant, boxing analyst for HBO regarded by many as the best of a long era, retired this weekend after 35 years at his post. At one point throughout his long career, Merchant may very well have been the best in the business, asking the hard questions as he shot straight from the hip, never missing an opportunity to put a journalistic bullet right between the eyes of his target. But for the better part of a decade Merchant has been little more than a bumbling old company man, which may be an explanation for what often seemed to be a lack of interest in what was going on in the ring. With old age he lost whatever mechanism he had that allowed him to better cloak his biases and agendas in clever questions and talking points. Or maybe it’s just me and the fine-tuning of my bullshit meter as I’ve gotten older?
Merchant’s thoughts on Nonito Donaire’s submittal to year-round random drug testing just about summed it all up on Saturday night. Despite receiving a nutrition and supplement regimen from Victor Conte, a convicted PED cheat of BALCO infamy who helped develop VADA’s (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) drug testing protocols (which are being used to randomly test Donaire), Merchant saw nothing out of the ordinary with that little set up. Merchant went so far as to claim Donaire has “inoculated himself” – yes, he actually said “inoculated himself” – from any suspicion of PED use. If Merchant was really such a hard-nosed straight shooter, shouldn’t he have called bullshit on this one?
Regardless, the bulk of my Larry Merchant memories are comprised of disrespectful treatment of anyone who didn’t draw an imaginary line in the ring and play “let’s stand on this line and hit each other and see who falls down first”. When he wasn’t shooting down the performances of guys like Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather Jr., or arguing live at Ringside with Jones or George Foreman, he was longing for a time when boxing was more of a dick measuring contest and less a display of defense, athleticism, and skill. And who can forget his “I wish I were 50 years younger” moment last September? Or coldly asking Michael Katsidis if his recently-deceased brother (whose memory Katsidis dedicated his performance to) would have been proud of his losing effort to Robert Guerrero in 2010?
Merchant’s train of thought often jumped the tracks, forcing viewers to sit through a three-minute diatribe about printing presses back in the 50’s in order to hear his thoughts on the “No three knockdown rule”. Sure, he had moments of clarity where he said something that transcended conventional thought and wisdom, but more often than not he was a bitter old fart, a mean old bastard, or a crusty old cunt – pick one. Be honest about your thoughts, just don’t say you’ll miss him. He’s been gone for a while now, if you really think about it. The brilliant, sharp, and edgy Larry Merchant seen on ESPN Classic and old footage from the 80’s left the building a long time ago; you’ve had plenty of time to miss him. The Larry Merchant who left the building on Saturday night was more Viva Las Vegas Elvis than Hound Dog Elvis. Just be glad Merchant didn’t go out on the toilet like Elvis.
If fighters (and even entertainers like Elvis) can be criticized for spoiling their legacies by hanging around too long, then commentators should be subjected to the same treatment.
Return of the King (Khan)
Amir Khan is back, ladies and gentlemen! With a blistering display of hand speed, accurate combination punching, and ring generalship, Amir Khan stopped Carlos Molina on cuts on Saturday night. With his victory on Saturday night, Khan proudly proclaimed he can’t be beaten, and if the Amir Khan who fought on Saturday had fought Danny Garcia in July, he’d have knocked him out. And after Khan’s performance on Saturday, who can argue with that?
Wait, that wasn’t the hard-luck junior middleweight Carlos Molina who arguably beat, but was jobbed against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2005, and then again against Erislandy Lara in 2011, and then again against James Kirkland this March? It was the previously unbeaten lightweight prospect with only seven knockouts in his seventeen wins, Carlos Molina?
In the words of Pulp Fiction’s Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe, “Let’s not start suckin’ each others’ dicks just yet.”
This is textbook Project Rebuild Khan at play here. Just as we saw in the wake of Khan’s crushing KO loss to Breidis Prescott back in 2008, Khan will be carefully matched against guys who aren’t powerful threats as they bring him along and rebuild his shattered confidence and crystal chin. Khan called out Danny Garcia in his post-fight interview on Saturday, and while Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said logistically it may not work out until the middle of the year, I don’t expect them to be in a rush to sign that fight. It was two full years after the Prescott loss before Khan was forced into the ring against Marcos Maidana, and while I don’t expect the same measured patience in his rebuilding this time around, Golden Boy will put him in against light hitters for another fight or two before he’s in against a real killer again.
Amir Khan is a joy to watch. He’s fast and throws his punches in bunches. He will use every inch of the ring to his advantage, but he’s willing to mix it up. He’s got enough power to knock guys out, but at any moment he can be flailing around like an inflatable floppy arm used car lot balloon after blocking a punch with his face. Amir Khan may have hit his ceiling and you know it’s only a matter of time until he reaches his ceiling again. But you know when he’s back in against an A-lister it will be must-see-TV.
White’s Wise Words
Dana White, the President of The UFC, is at it again. White, who has engaged in a bitter, back-and-forth war with Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, fired a few shots across the bow of the S.S. Arum this week when he called Arum “the worst promoter in the history of the world” and “a moron”. White’s comments came in the wake of Manny Pacquiao’s six-round KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in a fight which White dubbed the “dumbest fight in history”. White opined that Pacquiao should have fought Bradley, and that Pacquiao-Marquez IV was merely a money fight.
White has often criticized boxing for not giving fans the most competitive fights that they actually want to see. His thoughts on Mayweather-Pacquiao not happening have been well-chronicled, while at the same time he’s kept mum on the mythical and elusive Anderson Silva-Georges St. Pierre fight that won’t happen.
In this case, Pacquiao-Marquez 4 was the fight fans wanted to see as well as the money fight. There was little interest in a rematch with Timothy Bradley. Had Arum matched Pacquiao against Bradley, White would be criticizing Arum for making a fight no one wanted to see.
White’s reasoning is simple. The UFC’s product has stagnated. Fluttering ratings and diminishing pay-per-view buys are a sign that the fanfare surrounding the UFC has died down. A large chunk of the tribal-tattooed, Affliction shirt-wearing, Drowning Pool fans who jumped on the UFC bandwagon so many years ago have been bitten by short attention spans and are now fully immersed in CrossFit and the free advertising they provide to their gyms by flooding social media with their“WOD” results. It’s a theory of mine, but take a look around at your social circles and tell me the dots don’t start to connect.
When you’re trying to climb higher up a tree, it is common practice to reach up to the higher branches to pull yourself up. In this case, White is doing what he always does; attaching his product to Manny Pacquiao as he tries to pull it higher up the tree.