Boxing notebook: Merchant and HBO working a deal

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Only minutes after the HBO broadcast of last week's middleweight title fight between Jermain Taylor and Cory Spinks from Memphis, Tenn., went off the air, longtime partners Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant embraced.

It was the last show Merchant would do before his HBO contract was set to run out at the end of the month. The friends were acknowledging the possibility it might have been the last time they worked together.

But it now appears HBO is moving toward a deal with Merchant to keep him as part of its broadcast crew.

It's the only move that Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports, can make because not only is Merchant still doing expert work but also his would-be replacement, Max Kellerman, is nowhere near qualified.

Merchant is the best ring interviewer in the business and, agree with his opinion or not, he always is the voice of the fan. Kellerman is little more than a self-promoter.


Former light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. was never the best businessman in the game, but his latest move might be the biggest in a career filled with blunders.

He announced he's going to fight super middleweight Anthony Hanshaw – a 50-50 fight, at best, for him – July 14 on pay-per-view in Biloxi, Miss.

That same night, HBO is airing a split-site tripleheader with three bouts, all of which are infinitely more interesting than Jones-Hanshaw, with the added bonus that they're free.

The fight of the night will be in Carson, Calif., when Antonio Margarito defends his WBO welterweight title against unbeaten knockout artist Paul Williams. In Atlantic City, HBO will televise what should be a slugfest between Arturo Gatti and former "The Contender" star Alfonso S. Gomez as well as an IBF welterweight title bout between Kermit Cintron and Walter Matthysse.

The Jones-Hanshaw fight will be lucky to do 5,000 on pay-per-view.


There was a once-in-a-lifetime sight last week at the Taylor-Spinks news conference at the FedEx Forum. Promoters Bob Arum and Don King, the longtime bitter rivals, exchanged a high-five as Arum railed about inequities in the way boxing telecasts are handled, particularly at HBO.

There was a time not long ago when if either touched the other, it would have been around the throat.

"Don's not so bad, especially compared to some of these guys who are out there now," Arum said, shaking his head.

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