Published on Wednesday, 05 December 2007 11:24
by Alex Yzerman
As I watched the Amir Khan- Lamont Peterson fight this past weekend, it dawned on me one of the reasons boxing is struggling. The UFC has risen to popularity over the past few years by appealing to young boys and men, just the demographic that advertisers love. The fighters are locked in a cage and their fights are narrated by Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
Rogan is a comedian known for hosting Fear Factor and saying and doing whatever he feels like. He also knows the sport and describes it in a way his audience understands. Young people relate to him.
Now, where the UFC basically IS mma, HBO is not all things boxing. But it would be hard to deny that its commentators are the most well known. Jim Lampley and more importantly Larry Merchant bring the sport to our living rooms. While Lampley has his detractors, at least he seems in control (Pacquiao-Clottey fight aside) of his faculties and is energetic and vibrant during the course of the fight.
Larry Merchant, however has been out of it for over a decade. He is painful to listen to at best. I feel embarrassed for him as he struggles to gather his thoughts and put out something that is somewhat coherent. He slows down the broadcast and adds nothing as far as insight goes. Listening to him is like listening to my elderly uncle. I cant help but feel sorry for him while wondering if what comes out of his mouth next will make any sense.
So in a sport whose fan base is rapidly aging, we have Larry Merchant to help try to attract new fans? Really? If I were a young man watching my first HBO fight and saw Merchant, I would be flipping channels immediately. Loyalty is an admirable trait, but there comes a time when the execs at HBO need to step in and gently send Larry out to pasture.
Boxing has a great opportunity to grow in a society that is increasingly embracing violence. From video games to mma, our culture is enjoying combat more than ever. But for some reason, boxing is on the decline. Why? Because those in power refuse to embrace what is working now. Instead they are clinging to things that worked decades ago. Retire Larry Merchant, avoid stodgy, un-charasmatic fighters like Lennox Lewis and give us people we can relate to. If i want to know which hemorrhoid cream is best, I will tune in and get Mr. Merchants thoughts. If i want to hear someones thoughts on two 20 somethings kicking ass, give me people I can relate to and are able to put together clear, intelligible thoughts.