(‘Lying is such a negative word. I prefer to call it efficient storytelling.’)
By all accounts, HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant’s claim that Oscar De La Hoya was missing the Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito bout on Saturday because Affliction paid him $5 million to attend their show is straight up false. The question is, did Merchant know it was untrue when he said it? According to what Golden Boy CEO Richard Shaefer told Sherdog, the answer is: kind of.
Schaefer says he told Merchant that De La Hoya would be helping to promote the Affliction show because “our partners at Affliction made an over $5 million commitment to the event.” Merchant took that and twisted it to mean that Golden Boy was paid $5 million by Affliction, which is quite a leap, as even Merchant almost admits:
“The $5 million was the number thrown out,” Merchant told Sherdog.com on Tuesday. “There was not a discussion on how that precisely was allocated or how it was branded. Is it a little bit glib or short-handed to say that Golden Boy got $5 million and Oscar had to be there? Yeah. Yeah. I’m on television and I’m trying to tell a story as tightly as I can.”
That’s obviously a pretty sorry excuse. Being on TV doesn’t give you license to distort a story just to make it shorter, as Merchant well knows. The fact is he just doesn’t like MMA, as he freely admits without ever being asked. Even tacked on to the end of his erroneous $5 million claim was this little zinger: “It would take that much to get me to go to one of those things.” Now he says he’d go for a mere $100,000, despite the fact that no one in the MMA world wants or needs him there.
But the thing that’s frustrating about Merchant’s disdain for MMA is that it makes no sense coming from a guy whose life has been spent covering the fight game. Just look at this quote from Merchant about the decline of boxing, taken from Joe Layden’s book about the Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas bout, The Last Great Fight:
“[Boxing’s] no longer a part of the social fabric of the country. Once upon a time you didn’t have every kid graduating high school, much less college, and boxing was one of the ways out. You could go to Rochester, Minnesota and find a fight club. There were gyms in every town, and in most cities it was a place where kids went to test their manhood or to get away from influences; it was something in the dreams of youngsters, to be a champion. And I think that’s gone, except in some pockets of the Hispanic world. …Now, when people say, ‘Where are all the heavyweights?’ I say, ‘There are hundreds of them out there…and they’re all playing linebacker.’”
But Merchant doesn’t see that, probably because he doesn’t want to. That’s his right, as meager a comfort as it may be. What he ought to give some thought to, however, is the irony inherent in the fact that the only way for him to garner attention on his boxing broadcasts these days is to mention MMA.