It is no secret Oscar De La Hoya hates Larry Merchant. It's also not a secret a lot of other people hate Larry Merchant, including just about every Spanish speaking boxing fan. The hatred stems from 1997 when prior to De La Hoya's fight with Pernell Whitaker, a mariachi band provided Oscar's entrance music by playing in the ring and Merchant remarked, "As wonderful as this music is...in this setting it sucks. Unless they follow it with some soul music." His point was it was disrespectful to Whitaker, who was the Welterweight Champion, to have a band performing in the ring prior to the fight. Whether you think it was a harmless comment or not, the Latino community and De La Hoya did not, and they went to great lengths to get him fired. Time Warner, HBO's parent company, refused to fire Merchant and instead made him apologize on the air. This did not sit well with De La Hoya or the Latino community.
It should be noted this was not the first time a high profile boxer tried to get Merchant fired. When Mike Tyson left HBO for Showtime it was reported his promoter Don King asked HBO to fire Merchant, in addition to asking for a ridiculous amount of money to resign. HBO refused and Tyson left for Showtime. The exact reasons why King and Tyson wanted Merchant fired are difficult to tell. Some people think it was simply a power play by King to exert control over HBO. Others claim Tyson hated Merchant and felt he was a bigot. I'd say both are true. Either way, Merchant has a way of pissing off profitable boxers.
Merchant's latest verbal gaffe about De La Hoya's 5 million reasons to attend Affliction "Day of Reckoning" has set off a firestorm of negative publicity. Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy's CEO, flatly denied the accusation and it seems like he was telling the truth. Sherdog caught up with Merchant, probably by telegraph, and he did his best to act senile. According to Merchant, he was confused and did not fully understand the relationship between Affliction and Golden Boy. I actually believe him there, but maybe the next time he is unclear about a story, he should keep his mouth shut.
I don't think this will be the end of Merchant's run on HBO. He's survived worse. The thing it does show me is the influence of MMA is greater than ever before. Thanks to a bunch of MMA fans with websites, Merchant's comments became a big deal. If Merchant did not think much of the sport before Saturday night, he does now.