Merchant-Kellerman pairing should be fun

As much as I look forward to covering Amir Khan's junior welterweight title defense against Lamont Peterson on Saturday night in Washington, D.C., -- only about a half-hour from my home -- I'm as excited to watch the HBO telecast (9:45 ET) later on my DVR.

Whatever happens in the fight -- the broadcast also will include heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell against Timur Ibragimov, plus a replay of last week's Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch -- the commentary should be tremendous to listen to.

That's because, for the first (and probably only) time, commentators Larry Merchant and Max Kellerman will be ringside together to call a fight alongside Jim Lampley -- unless you count the trio's scripted appearance together in the film "Rocky Balboa."

Saturday's show will be the real thing, and it should be a lot of fun to listen to Merchant and Kellerman, with vastly different opinions on many things in boxing and separated by 42 years in age, call a fight together.

The reason for the unusual pairing is because Emanuel Steward, a regular on the "World Championship Boxing" broadcast team, was supposed to be in Germany on Saturday training Wladimir Klitschko. Although Klitschko's fight was postponed because of Klitschko's kidney stones a few days ago, the HBO producers decided to keep Merchant and Kellerman together.

Roy Jones Jr., who handles commentary on "Boxing After Dark," was also unavailable because, sad as it is to say, he will fight Max Alexander in Atlanta on Saturday night.

The pairing of Merchant and Kellerman was Lampley's idea. Like I have done for years, he has advocated the pairing, just to see what it's like -- at least once.

"I'm very, very excited about it," Lampley said. "I'm thrilled that the network saw fit to go with it, because when I saw that Dec. 10 was what it was and Emanuel was supposed to be gone and Roy was fighting, I put two and two together. It occurred to me it was the only time we would have a chance to put Max and Larry on the air together."

Lampley views the broadcast as "a collectors item for sophisticated fans."

"It's the chance to listen to two guys who come at boxing from the academic perspective, as opposed to the Emanuel, Roy, Freddie Roach, Teddy Atlas perspective as fighters and trainers," Lampley said. "Larry and Max are both brilliant and both proven to be bona fide boxing experts. They both have unimpeachable credentials, and I can't wait to hear them discuss the fights. It's a night where I'll scale back the blow-by-blow to make room for them to really discuss things and make their voices heard."

Kellerman, 38, grew up listening to Merchant, 80, call fights on HBO, has modeled his style after him and been groomed to replace him full time when Merchant retires. For the past few years, they have shared "World Championship Boxing" and pay-per-view assignments. (Kellerman also appears on "Boxing After Dark.")

"As usual, Sylvester Stallone was ahead of the curve," Kellerman joked about his appearance with Merchant in the "Rocky" movie. "When it was mentioned to me about doing the show together, I thought that it would be really fun if it worked out. I'm stoked that it's happening at least one time. In terms of sports commentary, Larry had a bigger influence on me than anyone else. He articulated the thoughtful point of view, and what I really liked is that the points he made weren't always the first things on your mind even if it was floating around in the back of your mind. And when he said it, you'd think, 'Exactly!' And that is what I try to do.

"The feeling I have is this will be a lot of fun and interesting. It's a cool situation and I'm glad it's happening. I grew up watching him and he has influenced me. We had to do a fight."

Some, of course, will look for conflict in their viewpoints. That was something that made the old pairing of Merchant and George Foreman so much fun to watch. They'd bicker about the way a fight was going while Lampley would referee.

"I'm as curious as the fans are to see how it turns out," Merchant said. "When I was with George, people always were excited when we disagreed. From my perspective, I didn't want to make that sideshow bigger than the fight. So I deliberately laid back rather than make that kind of a shtick. This is a different dynamic, and maybe Max and I will be too respectful. We should be able to agree to disagree. It would be unnatural if we always agreed. But I'm game for it, and I'll bring my best game and he'll bring his."

Then Merchant played off his instantly famous clash with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring after the fighter beat Victor Ortiz in September.

"I think you're always up for something new and it pumps you up, but the fight still comes first," Merchant said. "And if I was 50 years younger, I'd be the young guy."