By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (Feb. 8, 2015) — In a recent phone interview with boxing announcer Jim Lampley, he explained what made his longtime fight analyst and HBO Sports colleague Larry Merchant such a gifted commentator, one who commanded respect from the general public.
“He was one of the most experienced sports reporters in America for all sports,” Lampley said. “He had begun writing sports in the early 1950s, and his first job was in Wilmington, North Carolina, but for a variety of reasons, he left there pretty quickly, and his second job was in Philadelphia.”
Lampley described is as “sort of the fight capital of the United States, maybe the most interested boxing city or was at that time.”
“Larry developed a knowledge and awareness about boxing,” added Lampley, “and became known to boxing fans while reporting on Joe Frazier. And he became nationally famous when he wrote a book about betting on the NFL “The National Football Lottery” (published in 1973), and as a result of becoming nationally famous he moved to New York, another big boxing capital at that time, and he was writing boxing during the greatest and richest and most colorful era of heavyweight boxing ever.
“He was personally involved in reporting on Muhammad Ali, on Joe Frazier, on George Foreman, and all of the people that surrounded them at that time. So the public knew him. The public recognized his great background and expertise in boxing.”
Our conversation briefly turned to why Lampley thought Merchant was the ideal pundit to work with him on the Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas fight telecast on Feb. 11, 1990, at Tokyo Dome.
“He just happens to be a brilliant man who is one of the most thoughtful and disciplined reporters I have ever known, and no reporter in the world could have been better qualified to be sitting next to me ringside while I called that fight,” Lampley said of Merchant.
“I don’t think there was another reporter alive who could have brought more to enhancing my call and interpreting for the audience…He was to a large degree a great mentor of mind in boxing…”
My look back at the 25th anniversary of the Tyson-Douglas fight is featured in this series, including more articles on the way in the coming days: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/column/tyson-douglas-shocker-revisited/
Note: the Brooklyn-born Merchant’s 84th birthday is on the fight’s 25th anniversary.