One of the stories that seems to have really captivated people in the aftermath of the Mayweather vs Ortiz debacle and fight last night is the post-fight interview with Floyd Mayweather Jr and HBO's Larry Merchant. For evidence, it's almost 6 a.m. EDT on Sunday morning, and "Larry Merchant" is still trending on Twitter.
It was a moment that could have gone very ugly, as a couple of proud, and frankly not particularly nice guys got briefly physical simply over somewhat routine -- well, for this fight -- questions.
Here's a transcript of the interview:
Merchant: "The crowd, at least a good part of it, is in an uproar because they felt that you took shots at him unfairly after you were -- went together in the ring, made up for the headbutt, and then you poked him. What's your story?'
Mayweather: "First off, I wanna thank God for this victory, because without God all this wouldn't be possible. I wanna thank my team. I got hit with a dirty shot, and, um, it's protect yourself at all times. I hit him with a left hook-right hand, and that ended the bout."
Merchant: "So you're saying that even though it appeared that he didn't -- wasn't protecting himself, and thought that was part of the ceremony you were going through, of apology, that you unfairly took advantage of it. What do say to those that say, 'What'd you do there? You were winning the fight and in charge.'"
Mayweather: "I just wanna tell everybody that bought pay-per-view, that came out to Las Vegas, thank you. It was a hell of a fight."
Merchant: "Floyd, you know you're a promoter, but now we're talking to you as a prizefighter. Let's take a look at what happened at the end of the fight, and you describe it."
Mayweather: "We touch -- we touch gloves. We're back to fighting. Hook. Right hand. And that's all she wrote."
Merchant: "So for you, it was just an automatic response, let's get on with the fight."
Mayweather: "It's protect yourself at all times. He done something dirty. We're not here to cry and complain about what he did dirty, or what I did dirty. I was victorious. If he wants a rematch, he can get a rematch."
Merchant: "You were in charge of the fight. You were aggressive. And trying, and taking advantage of--"
Mayweather: "You know what I'm gonna do? 'Cause you don't never give me a fair shake, you know that? So I'm gonna let you go and talk to Victor Ortiz, alright? I'm through. Put somebody else up here and give me an interview."
Merchant: "What are you talking about? What are you talking about?"
Mayweather: "You never give me a fair shake! HBO needs to fire you! You don't know shit about boxing! You ain't shit! You not shit!"
Merchant: "I wish I was 50 years younger and I'd kick your ass!"
Mayweather: "You won't do shit!"
This was a moment between two proud men who, quite frankly, have never seemed to much like one another. I don't know if they have any relationship at all outside of these post-fight interviews, but Floyd has a level of disrespect for Merchant, because he believes Merchant does not respect him. And Merchant, it must be said, is considered a disrespectful pundit by many in and around boxing. I have found him at times to be grating, I have criticized him plenty, and just in my own personal opinion, I don't think Merchant adds much to the broadcasts most times out these days. Everyone gets past their prime in a profession, except maybe Vin Scully.
But I think Merchant was just doing his job here. Two big things are at play: Mayweather was very riled up at the moment, still in the heat of battle in a lot of ways, and went overboard. Merchant also went overboard. Merchant would, after interviewing Victor Ortiz, return to ringside with Jim Lampley and not quite apologize, but at least acknowledge that he'd gone too far. He also admitted that no, he does not think that 50 years ago he would have been able to "kick Floyd's ass," but he says he would have tried.
Again, they don't like each other. These are not guys who get together to have lunch, I don't think.
But the unprofessional antics went both ways here. Mayweather started it, but a veteran like Merchant should have known better than to take the bait to that extent. It started normally, and then Mayweather lost it when Merchant again questioned whether or not the blows were fair. I think he was tired of answering the question, though it did appear Merchant was on his way to framing it differently this time, giving weight to Floyd's prior responses. I think Merchant actually had OK intentions with whatever he was about to say, just wanted further clarification. Mayweather wasn't having it, though.
Tempers ran hot. Things got a little testy. But in the end, not a huge deal. Merchant isn't going to kick anyone's ass, and Mayweather isn't going to knock out an old man. As for their rivalry, I buy it. It's one of the realest rivalries in boxing today.