Coming Friday: Banking on Merchant’s expertise


Boxing remains a relevant sport, despite with mixed martial artists (like Herschel Walker) want to have you believe.

Saturday’s heavyweight title fight between Vitali Klitschko and Riverside’s Chris Arreola at Staples Center has historic consequences — Arreola could be the first Mexican-American to claim the title in this glamorous weight class.

“This one could be big depending on how it goes,” said HBO analyst Larry Merchant, who we will feature in Friday’s media column. “If Arreola wins, it really becomes a big deal. It could put boxing on the front page of a lot of sports sections.”

That’s a whole other can of Sugar Shane-coated worms. The media covering boxing has its feet planted in cable TV and the Internet. Newspapers try, but don’t always succeed, in following it as loyally as they once did. Maybe it doesn’t pack the same punch as it once did, and the 78-year-old Merchant understands the dynamic.

First, it needs a centerpiece, a place where people know — this is where a big event is taking place. Las Vegas has that for the most part, but even that’s pretty watered down.

Can L.A. be the place?

“I don’t think there’s any place where Madison Square Garden once was, or where Vegas is,” said Merchant, a Santa Monica resident for the last 30-plus years. “The casinos selling tickets for the high rollers … they’ll always get the big fights. But I would say outside of Vegas, with L.A. being in the heart of what you can say is Northern Mexico, and the fact that Latinos dominate boxing these days, L.A. is as a big a place as any outside of Vegas.”

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