Legendary former HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant was one of Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao’s early supporters.
The very first time Merchant saw Pacquiao fight was in 2001, his nickname was “The Destroyer” and he was a late replacement opponent for IBF super bantamweight champion Lehlo Ledwaba of South Africa. It was also Pacquiao’s first time fighting in America and on HBO.
Ledwaba was the guy HBO was trying to build up at the time, and in came this unknown Filipino southpaw slugger who entered the ring smiling from ear to ear with blond highlights in his hair.
The most memorable moments of this fight was the inability for Jim Lampley to pronounce Pacquiao’s name and Merchant saying before the fight started that if Pacquiao is anywhere near as good as the late great Filipino boxing legend Gabriel “Flash” Elorde we’ve got a real fight coming up.
It was a star is born type of moment. Pacquiao stopped Ledwaba and instantly won over the hearts of Lampley, big George Foreman and Larry Merchant. It was a love at first sight type performance.
Pacquiao would continue to fight on HBO and become one of the networks biggest Pay-Per-View attractions.
Merchant who covered many of the Pac-Man’s fights was also the brainchild for the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao dream fight. During an interview Merchant made a suggestion that the majority of boxing scribes and fans ridiculed, he said why not have Manny Pacquiao fight Oscar De La Hoya in a super-fight?
People laughed at the match, many were claiming Merchant was going senile and it was a complete mismatch. The overwhelming majority of boxing folks predicted the much bigger Oscar De La Hoya to stop the smaller Manny Pacquiao.
It was Merchant who had the last laugh because the Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya fight became a reality and Pacquiao went on to stop De La Hoya and retire him. If it wasn’t for his suggestion some could say Pacquiao wouldn’t have been the megastar he is today.
Merchant is one of the few people you could say is a true fan of the Filipino slugger. His appreciation for the 40-year-old Senator has never wavered and in a recent interview by YouTube boxing reporter Little Giant Boxing on the red carpet for the DAZN documentary One Night: Joshua vs. Ruiz, he shared his fond memories and opinions of the eight division world champion.
“Manny (Pacquiao) is a great, great, fighter,” said Merchant. “I think he is our generations Henry Armstrong. A great personality who became a worldwide figure. He was such an entertaining fighter and such a pleasing personality that he really became a worldwide figure and that’s a rare thing.”
Merchant who covered many great fighters from Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roy Jones Jr, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr., just to name a few feels Pacquiao was one of the most special fighters he ever watched.
“Manny Pacquiao is an exciting fighter. A knockout type of fighter who made a rare transition from brawler to a boxer-puncher. He is the only fighter I know of who had another full-time job and was able to keep doing it. He lost some fights and he came back and fought everybody and that’s what counts to me,” said Merchant.
When asked what one moment stood out the most, Merchant said,”I can’t think of one particular moment, but I can think of a lot of moments.”
Erwin Lastimosa is a long time boxing fan and enjoys discussion boxing with his peers.