James Foley returns to Bad Left Hook today with a look back at some of Larry Merchant's most memorable quotes over his long tenure as color commentator for HBO.
When Sean Penn was asked by Charlie Rose to comment on the passing of famed actor Marlon Brando, he responded with "Marlon....Marlon was a poem." Ladies and gentlemen, that just about perfectly sums up how I feel about one Lawrence Merchant, best known as the curmudgeonly old-timer at HBO Boxing whose acerbic one-liners spare no one.
Merchant has been a gem for over thirty years as the lead color commentator at HBO, and he's issued a wealth of clever quips, profound platitudes, and withering barbs throughout his masterful reign. These are but a small sample of his wit and wizardry:
1978 Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Dicky Eklund
"Oh there he is! Well, I don't think he'll have to be Columbo tonight to solve this...we'll have our answer within the hour."-as the HBO cameras found actor Peter Falk among the crowd.
1982 Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello 1
"Alex Arguello is thinking a lightweight champion's thoughts. You wonder what's going on inside that great, old fighting head."
1987 Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Edwin Rosario
"Rosario never quit, but his team did the right thing. A hard way to make 600,000 dollars....and look at Chavez, he looks like he could go out and skip rope for fifteen rounds!"
1988 Mike Tyson vs. Larry Holmes
"Larry Holmes is practicing what Archie Moore used to call escapology. The question is: when is he gonna start to practice fight-ology?"
"Mike Tyson looked like a bull in an antique shop. And what he did here was cut down the old grandfather clock."
1988 Mike Tyson vs. Tony Tubbs
"Inquiring minds want to know, how does a woman who went to Sara Lawrence and Harvard Medical School end up falling for a guy who graduated from the school of hard knocks?"-to Robin Givens, who had recently become "Mrs. Champ".
"He does have more ice cream than fire in his belly, but he also really has the stomach for fighting."-on Tubbs.
"About a half-million dollars will go to Tubbs after all of his expenses. I figured out that's about 100,000 quarts of ice cream....or a shrimp salad in Japan."
1988 Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Donny Lalonde
"This is a fight between a Ferrarri and a pick-up truck. The pick-up truck is trying to make it a demolition derby and the ferrari's trying to make it a foot-race."
"Lalonde is a vegetarian but he fights like a carnivore."
1989 Mike Tyson vs. Frank Bruno 1
"He spent almost 200,000 dollars on clothes last year, but obviously none of them were sweat socks or robes."-on Tyson's notoriously stark ring entrance.
"Bruno looks like a #1 pick, but Tyson plays like an all-star."
1989 Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran 3
"They told Roberto Duran in his corner that Ray Leonard is getting tired, but Roberto Duran is too old and too wise to buy that."
1990 Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas
"Douglas insists that he's going to shock the world in this fight. If he should upset Tyson, it would make the shocks in Eastern Europe seem like local ward politics."
1990 Mike Tyson vs. Henry Tillman
"The snake always devours the frog. My over/under was 90 seconds. I think it went over."
1992 Evander Holyfield vs. Larry Holmes
"Holyfield is looking to out-jab the old jabber...a real jabberwocky, Jim."
1992 Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield 1
"Evander Holyfield has never won a tale of the tape, or lost a fight."
"If (Holyfield) he weighs 205 lbs, his heart weighs 204."
1993 Roy Jones vs. Bernard Hopkins 1
"So far this is a little like watching congressmen argue on C-Span."
1994 Pernell Whitaker vs. Santos Cardona
"I don't think Roman emperors got better escorts to their thrones."-on Whitaker's ring entrance accompanied by full marching band.
"Starting with Muhammad Ali and a lot of his clones, many boxers thought that boxing was done with your legs. And fans got used to the idea that a boxer, really, was somebody that ran. But what we see Pernell Whitaker doing is what true boxing always was down through the ages of prizefighting, which is to stand there in punching range and be quicker than the other guy, and not let him hit you when you hit him."
1994 Pernell Whitaker vs. Buddy McGirt 2
"Promoter Dan Duva said this is the best fight in Virginia since the Civil War. He may be right."
1995 Pernell Whitaker vs. Julio Cesar Vasquez
"Vasquez has been snorting in the ring like a bull, and this is a bull and bullfighter type fight, except that Whitaker carries darts rather than a sword."
"This may become our first x-rated fight."-on Vasquez' see-through shorts.
1995 Roy Jones vs. Tony Thornton
"Roy Jones is the hardest kind of fighter to fight, because he's hard to hit and he hits hard."
"It's like seeing a combination ballet dancer and bouncer."-on Jones.
1996 Arturo Gatti vs. Wilson Rodriguez
"Gatti oughta be fighting with a fedora on."-on Gatti's throwback style.
1996 Oscar De La Hoya vs. Julio Cesar Chavez
"It may be as simple as the power and speed of youth or as complicated as the will of a great warrior".
1997 Pernell Whitaker vs. Diosbelys Hurtado
"Hurtado is known as 'the ring dancer'. I hope it's less Alvin Ailey than Muhammad Ali."
"So far this fight has been like a beef stew without the beef."
"Now it's beef stew without the beef and the stew!"
1997 Oscar De La Hoya vs. Hector Camacho
"Camacho doesn't run or grab quite as much as he used to, but it's hard to turn a gazelle into a lion."
1997 George Foreman vs. Shannon Briggs
"And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China or the result of this fight?"-on Foreman's endorsement of his grill when asked about the controversial decision against him.
1997 Naseem Hamed vs. Kevin Kelley
"Is this a fashion show, Jim, or a prize-fight? What have we got on this runway?"-on Hamed's lavish ring entrance.
"There is a new British rock group called Chumbawamba, I believe, and the chorus to one of their songs goes ‘ya knock me down, I'm gonna get up again, you're never gonna keep me down'. And that's what happened here tonight."
2001 Floyd Mayweather vs. Diego Corrales
"This is as bad as bad blood gets in our blood sport, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Blood is good. Blood is emotion. Blood is a story, a drama. Blood is what we want to see in terms of passion. What we want is a bloody good fight tonight."
2001 Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad
"The fight to survive and thrive has always made New York a fight town, now more than ever. Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad personify that spirit."
2002 Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson
"Mike Tyson's stock is falling faster than Enron."
2002 Vernon Forrest vs. Shane Mosley 2
"Can Forrest turn Sugar into Sweet and Low again? Can Mosley do a number on the man who seems to have his number? Put that clicker away."
2002 Oscar De La Hoya vs. Fernando Vargas
"Fernando Vargas may have had a 6-pack on his stomach...he did not have a 6-pack in his chin."
2003 Roy Jones vs. John Ruiz
"One of the good things that's happening here, we'll probably never have to see Norman Stone again."-on the outspoken manager of Ruiz.
2003 Roy Jones vs. Antonio Tarver 1
"Roy Jones says he has a kind of incredible hulk inside him called RJ which we seldom see, a relentlessly angry fighter. Dos Antonio Tarver have an AT to meet RJ?"
2005 Bernard Hopkins vs. Howard Eastman
"Someone once said there's nothing as real as nothing....this is a real fight, in those terms."
2005 Erik Morales vs. Manny Pacquiao
"Erik Morales is an orchid that grew up in a ghetto. Manny Pacquiao is an orchid that was born on a rice paddy. And they're tough as weeds."
2005 Floyd Mayweather vs. Arturo Gatti
"This is like Jesse James walking into a convention of bankers."-on Mayweather entering Gatti's home base of Atlantic City.
2005 Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor 1
"The celebrated professor of boxing is going to take to school a precocious student. Is the student ready to graduate?"
2005 Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor 2
"The older guy's gotta fight younger. The younger guy's gotta fight older."
"If you love tactical fights....you love this."-a sarcastic endorsement of the not exactly action-packed opening rounds.
2006 Bernard Hopkins vs. Antonio Tarver
"This isn't about legends and legacies and all that cosmic crapola now....this is now, about a fight."
2006 Oscar De La Hoya vs. Ricardo Mayorga
"Mayorga is a rude, crude dude in the ring, as well as outside. In a sense, what we have here is class warfare with boxing gloves. Mayorga is a street fighter from a street that didn't have electricity until he financed it with some of his earnings. His most prominent physical asset, he keeps reminding us, is his cajones. Opposite him tonight is a handsome fighter with a gold medal, a beautiful wife, vast wealth including a 74 foot yacht. Mayorga looks at him and thinks he's seeing a hated slumlord, and Oscar is coming to collect the rent."
2007 Floyd Mayweather vs. Oscar De La Hoya
"By all that is holy in boxing, Floyd Mayweather is supposed to win."
2007 Jermain Taylor vs. Kelly Pavlik 1
"Emanuel Steward has been blowing more smoke going into this fight than all the old steel mills in Youngstown."
2008 Shane Mosley vs. Ricardo Mayorga
"I want to go back a couple of days to a press conference in which the second of Shane Mosley, Cassius Green, who walks around wearing a sailor's cap, in effect, was yelling from the audience to Mayorga 'He's gonna knock you out, he's gonna knock you out'. Mayorga took a quick look at him and said 'Welcome, to the Captain of the Titanic'. Well it turned out that it was Mayorga who ran into the iceberg and here we have a Captain of the Queen Mary, or the Queen Shane, instead."
2008 Bernard Hopkins vs. Kelly Pavlik
"Hopkins said this will be a fight between two construction workers fighting over a sandwich after a hard day's work. Will we get a Roast Beef sandwich or a Baloney?"
2011 Devon Alexander vs. Lucas Matthysse
"I saw a lot of heavyweight fans....those corn-fed Midwestern fans. A lot of them look like offensive linemen."-on a recent trip to the ballpark in St. Louis and the lack of a great American heavyweight.
2011 Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz
"If I was 50 years younger, I'd kick your ass."-responding to Mayweather's tirade in which he called for Merchant to be fired.
2011 Lamont Peterson vs. Amir Khan
"We're not disagreeing enough, Max."-to broadcast partner Max Kellerman, in reference to their purported feud.
2012 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Marco Antonio Rubio
"Is youth wasted on the young, or can youth outrun its' mistakes?
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Shockingly, Merchant is not universally beloved by boxing fans. But from where I sit, here's hoping for another thirty years from Larry Legend.