First: I am feeling a bit like a hipster, because I hated Merchant by junior high. Really, piss on that guy.
I have to cut Jim Lampley a bit of slack though. While he has been doing the boxing gig long enough that his mistakes stand out, he is a polished broadcasting talent. That counts for a lot. He also does tennis and the Olympics.
Larry Merchant smells of vodka, fail, and AIDS. Also, every time someone defends him, a puppy gets cancer.
Just having at least one of the talking heads be "seasoned" enough to never stutter or say "um" and always look at the right camera brings a hell of a lot to a broadcast. Watch early UFC for a counter point. Bill Wallace, Kathy Long, Don Wilson, Jeff Blotnick all have/had a lot of combat sports experience, but the commentating was...not good. Tito Ortiz is very knowledgable and extremely accomplished, but putting him on a mic as talent should result in U.N. sanctions, interventionalist policies, and maybe a drone strike.
Larry Merchant is worse than Tito, because he is better at talking. That means more of his "thoughts" actually make it into sound. Sound that careens around the fucking planet endagering innocent ears.
Lampley can cover for less polished, but more knowledgeable "talent", and he often does. I liked the commentating a lot when HBO had Lampley plus Stewert, Foreman, or even Lennix Lewis. Merchant is just plain bad though. The fact they put him in the ring with fighters is curious. He sucks at interviewing, and fighters (especially after a fight) tend to suck at being interviewed.
Larry Merchant's "commentary" is in fact "anti-thought" in a form so dense it warps space time.
The WTF reaction to his words is not an actual thought. It is your mind being trapped in the event horizon of his blathering.
I do think the formula of proven, capable, TV "talent" plus an S.M.E. for the sport being watched is more workable and robust, especially when shit happens like riots, fan man, or power outages, than others. I would love to get kmcnyc's take on this because he is way more closely involved in productions. For MMA I kind of liked Mir. I think Stann has potential. I think commenting is Sonnen's calling.
In conclusion, Larry Merchant is why babies cry.