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Larry Merchant ends 35-year run Saturday as voice of HBO boxing, conscience of a sport

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Larry Merchant joined HBO Sports in 1978 as an expert analyst (Courtesy HBO)

For 35 years as a ringside analyst for HBO Sports, Larry Merchant was the conscience of boxing, saying the things that needed to be said but that no one else would or could. His journalistic instincts led to a slew of honors, including induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.

Merchant will end his amazing run as a ringside analyst for HBO on Saturday when he calls the Nonito Donaire-Jorge Arce super bantamweight title fight from the Toyota Center in Houston.

Merchant was fearless and spoke out against the many ills of boxing. For years, Mike Tyson refused to speak with him and last year, Floyd Mayweather Jr. railed upon him. That led the spunky Merchant to respond, "If I were 50 years younger, I would kick your ass."

He said he'll serve as a "senior kibitzer who will parachute in from time to time." But Merchant is not ready to retire and will look to continue to work.

"I'm not the retiring kind," Merchant said. "I look forward to my next act. I've had a few discussions with people. It could be in writing. It could be in television. It could be in the new media space. I'm going to see what develops and see what I feel I should do."

Merchant joined HBO Sports in 1978 after a career as a top columnist at the Philadelphia Daily News and the New York Post.

[Related: Floyd Mayweather Jr. considering hiring his father as his trainer]

In an era on television when Howard Cosell would boast of telling it like it is, Merchant would do exactly that. Merchant never dodged an issue and spoke of boxing intelligently, with clarity and with great passion.

Asked why he felt he was successful for so long, Merchant said, "I brought a print media background, where I was a columnist for 20 years, and I was willing to speak truth to power. I was always trying to find out what was going on. I felt I asked the pertinent and sometimes uncomfortable questions and then I questioned the answers."

Merchant has alternated shows the past few years with Max Kellerman, who joined the network in 2005 and has increasingly taken on a larger role.

Kellerman will fill Merchant's chair, but whether he can come close to filling Merchant's shoes remains to be seen.

The network has wanted to get younger, and Merchant's departure will help do that.

Getting younger, though, isn't always getting better.

Merchant was a giant in the industry and his departure leaves an incredible void that the powers that be will be challenged to fill.

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