If one thing can be said about Top Rank’s Bob Arum is that he has always done things his way. Now with the pending Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley mega fight looming for May 7th in Las Vegas, NV, that rings more true than the liberty bell in Philadelphia. The man whose most famous quote is, “”Yesterday I was lying, today I am telling the truth,” is a quintessential salesman who no doubt could sell a snow cone to an Eskimo. I spoke to Arum face to face back in ’07 when he ran through San Diego with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Brian Viloria and Manny Pacquiao himself in tow to promote one of his “Latin Fury” cards and I was in awe of his eloquence, charisma and all-around presence. Now as he continues to take the bull by the horns and run his company the way he always has, boxing and its fans be damned, is why I really love the old guy.
The 79-year-old Arum grew up in New York City and graduated from Harvard Law School. Previous to becoming the premier boxing promoter in the world, Arum worked for the Internal Revenue Service as a tax lawyer. Through out the 45 years that he has promoted professional fisticuffs, Arum has employed the some of the biggest fighters in the history of the sport such as Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Oscar De La Hoya among many, many others. With the good also comes the bad as Arum has been mired in controversy, from bribery of sanctioning bodies to FBI investigations. All in all, the old guy stands tall and keeps putting on fights.
One thing that Arum and his company are known for is the development of fighters. Arum is a master in grabbing a fighter and building him up to a box office draw. In recent years, he has done just that with Kelly Pavlik in Atlantic City and Miguel Cotto in New York. In a way, the fact that he is so good at forming these fighters and many others into big ticket sellers is what has led him to not to work with the majority of promoters out there, especially Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.
The wound runs deep between Arum and De La Hoya since Arum built the “Golden Boy” into the super star that he became by targeting the Hispanic community in the U.S. in his promotion of the East L.A. native. When De La Hoya reached the pinnacle of the sport, he sued Arum, broke off from Top Rank and founded his own promotional company who organized the biggest fights of his career. Arum no doubt felt that he was owed a piece of that very lucrative pie since after all, while De La Hoya won the fights before the break, Arum put them up.
A Cold War soon developed between the two men, only warming up for their co-promoted “The Dream Match” event in which Pacquiao stopped De La Hoya in eight rounds in December of ’08. Since then, Arum has refused to work with not only Golden Boy Promotions but also most of other promoters. His reasoning is that he invests a lot of time and money in developing his fighters into draws to only have a rival promoter share in the rewards when their two fighters face off. Such was the case recently in which many promoters were clamoring in providing the next opponent for Pacquiao. Golden Boy wanted Marquez while Lou Dibella offered Andre Berto up for the slaughter. Arum declined both and only accepted “Sugar” Shane Mosley, the most known to the casual boxing fan out of the three, when he revealed that his promotional contract with Golden Boy was over.
I love the fact that Arum runs his company as he sees fits. Does it hurt the sport? Of course but in the end, to use the mantra of every fighter, fan, writer, trainer or pretty much anybody that has been involved with the sport to explain the unexplainable in boxing, “boxing is a business”. Every time something doesn’t make sense in the sweet science, the confused observer says, “Well, boxing is a business.” Succumbing to the fact that everybody in boxing is out for #1 explains a lot of the ridiculousness of the sport.
If we wanted to follow a sport in which we knew who played who months in advance, that was so organized that the players had a union and salary caps, then we would be die hard fans of football, baseball, basketball or pretty much every other sport out there.
Boxing is the theater of the unexpected, the red light district of the sports world for a reason and Arum adds to that. In Arum’s defense, he has repeatedly offered to offer a flat fee for the services of a fighter from a rival promoter. He has stated that he is not interested in co-promoting with other entities, especially not Golden Boy Promotions. In a co-promotion, the books and every decision must be opened to those who are putting up the money and he feels that he doesn’t need any other promoter or HBO or Showtime for that matter in promoting his fights or fighters.
He has done pretty well for himself doing things as he sees fits so why change now? Granted he has worked well in the past with others, including his arch nemesis Don King but I guess now in his old age the septuagenarian is way beyond that.
As far as his sentiments towards Mosley after “Sugar” struggled with Sergio Mora and fought him to a draw last September, Arum stated to the “White Gorilla” Michael Marley for BoxingScene.com, “What I’ve read is not very supportive to make any Mosley-Pacquiao bout. Look, he’s going to be 40 and he’s in the lighter weights where speed is so important. He’s on a show with guys — example, 20-year-old Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez — old enough to be his son.”
I guess he was lying then and today he is telling the truth…