Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Promoter Bob Arum and Manny Pacquiao are now a team.

If you ever wondered why the bidding has been so fierce over the promotional rights to the little Filipino dragon named Manny Pacquiao just have a look at his box-office numbers.

Plain and simple, having the pleasure to promote the "Pac Man" is like having a license to print money. So, as Pacquiao prepares for his latest shootout against unbeaten Mexican Jorge Solis on Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, his promoter of the day, Bob Arum, is grinning like a Cheshire cat.

In this age of boxing pacifism, where few punches are thrown and most title fights go the twelve-round distance, Pacquiao is an electric performer that makes boxing fans from around the world spring to their feet in open-mouthed glee. It's Pacquiao that makes boxing fans remember a better era in boxing when fighters really went for it, when they took chances and when they went into a fight like they had something to fight for - not something

Bob Arum remembers those times too, because he lived them. The promoter loves what he sees in Manny Pacquiao and Arum, in his raspy voice, says that if you're a boxing fan the choice should be easy as to who you should spend your money to see.

"If you were paying $50, who would you want to see? Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and his style or Manny Pacquiao and his style which is exciting, which is aggressive, which is entertaining or Floyd who is a tremendous tactician? I don't want to take anything away from Floyd, but I think the public really has spoken on this; that Manny is by far the more exciting and the more entertaining fighter. He has his skills and Floyd has his skills, but I think ninety-five percent of the boxing fans would rather watch Manny than Floyd."

Boxing at the highest levels has become a joust of predictability, like fencing without the swords. World title fights are like debates that play out in antiseptic casinos against the backdrop of stale and controlled television productions.

Corporate suits from the television networks act as manager, matchmaker and promoter all rolled into one. The grime of what used to make boxing such a beautiful and intriguing game has been cleansed away by lawyers in three piece suits and casinos that package "events" rather than fights. You can't even smoke a cigar at ringside anymore.

But for boxing fans and for Bob Arum, now in his 75th year, there is a flicker of light in this black darkness. Manny Pacquiao has stormed across the pacific like a typhoon and he's a throwback to another time and another place. In a time when boxing is lacking a hero, especially among the heavyweights, it has found one hailing from a far corner of the world that only weighs 130-pounds when he's soaking wet.

Pacquiao is the type of fighter that fans pay to see and his fights are exciting punch festivals that overflow with drama. It wouldn't be just any fighter that would cause Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions and those who run Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions to become sworn enemies forever over.

While the two groups despised each other before the battle of Pacquiao reared its ugly head - the hatred now runs as deep as the Mariana Trench. Arum has been getting guys to take off their shirts and fight each other for money for over 40 years and he knows a shooting star burning across the sky when he sees it.

When Arum had his moment to sink his promotional fangs into Pacquiao he did so with the swiftness and brunt of a King Cobra. Despite the fact that Pacquiao reportedly first signed a deal with De La Hoya and then accepted a suitcase filled with $250,000cash, it has been Arum that has come out on top in garnering Pacquiao's trust and his services.

It took a Christmas trip across the Pacific Ocean as well as untold sums in legal fees, but Bob Arum has got his man. Arum, who promoted both De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. from the ground up will be on the outside looking in when they face each other in one of the biggest money fights in boxing history on May 5th. Both have left Arum's promotional stable in the recent past and have taken with them the millions of dollars that Arum used to be a part of.

Arum claims he's leaving his hometown of Las Vegas on fight night when the two square-off at the MGM Grand and that he won't be among the millions around the world that will purchase the fight on pay per view.

He is still likely the best pure promoter in the sport. While most so-called promoters these days rely on the television networks and the casinos to sell tickets and bankroll promotions, Arum is promoting the fights at the Alamodome on his own dime and is also handling the distribution of the pay per view broadcast.

Arum, in his new role as maverick carnival barker, understands the fight game, the marketing of fighters as well as the fan base of what makes fighters popular perhaps better than anyone. Watching him promote boxing from behind the scenes is an amazing lesson.

During the build-up to the Oscar De La Hoya versus Hector Camacho fight in 1997 the master was at work. It was at The Marriott Hotel in Denver, Colorado which was one of the stops on the national press tour to hype the fight.

Thousands of screaming teen aged girls has worked themselves into a frenzied lather and were causing a mob scene and near riot in their efforts to get Oscar's attention. This was causing the safety of the fighters and the assembled reporters pinned at the front of the room to be in jeopardy so we were all corralled into the back kitchen of the hotel.

In amongst the pots and pans and reporters were Arum, De La Hoya, Camacho, a Mariachi band and Miss Colorado. Arum took the interruption in the schedule in stride and amongst the chaos he continued to conduct business. He first made a cell phone call to fellow promoter Cedric Kushner and engaged in a heated discussion about tickets for the then upcoming Johnny Tapia versus Danny Romero fight.

After that he told the people organizing the press conference to, "Get a move on, because we have a plane to catch." He then commented on the people pushing on the other side of the door.

"Those people are buyers. This thing is going to make some real money. They have money and they are buyers!"

And then Arum was out another door with the local Budweiser representatives to shoot a commercial for the Colorado cable systems promoting the De La Hoya versus Camacho fight.

Leading up to this weekend's fight there have been harsh words and accusations exchanged between Arum and Golden Boy Promotions as to who really has the right to promote Pacquiao. Both sides have filed legal arguments and just last week Arum won a round in court when De La Hoya's company attempted to block the Pacquiao versus Solis fight from taking place. Arum is hopeful about the entire Pacquiao legal situation and is forging ahead with the promotion even if it means he may be liable for damages at some point in the future.

When asked if people should spend their money to see Pacquiao fight this weekend or save it to purchase the Mayweather versus De La Hoya fight in May, Arum pulled his promoter's hat on even tighter.

"I mean let's be frank about it. I mean you've seen (Mayweather in) the Baldomir fight, the Bruseles fight, the Sharmba Mitchell fight. Would you want to pay money to see any of those kinds of fights again? I think the answer is no. If you saw Manny's fights with Barrera, with Morales, with Marquez I'd pay to see Manny fight similar fights because they're just so exciting and so gripping and he shows such great skills."

Arum conveniently left out mentioning the bouts in which Mayweather looked good and the fights against Arturo Gatti and Zab Judah that did have some drama.

Whatever the case, it's fitting that the Pacquiao fight is taking place at the Alamodome in San Antonio. After 40 years in the game, Arum is a modern-day Sam Houston staging his own Battle at the Alamo and hoping to mount a revolution that will make Manny Pacquiao a household name. Like an old west prospector, Arum continues to dig and sift through the dirt that is professional boxing searching for the elusive golden nuggets.

This time he's found a shiny new rock named Manny Pacquiao - and it shows no sign of losing its luster.

April 2007

1 comment:

merjoem32 said...

Great post. Bob Arum is doing the right thing in fighting for that control of Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao is one of the biggest money drawers in the lower weight classes. Aside form being the pride of
Philippine boxing , Pacquiao also has many other fans from other countries.