Report and photos by John DiSanto
Philly Boxing History (.com)
This weekend’s big championship boxing tripleheader is the first major show of the new year. With six world class fighters in the three HBO-televised title bouts, the event features a patchwork of various promotional forces coming together on this one night. At the helm of the effort is veteran promoter Bob Arum, the head of Top Rank Boxing. Moments before the weigh in for Saturday’s card began, we caught up with the Hall of Famer for a quick Q&A.
FIGHT NEWS: There is a lot of talk about how this is a “pick ‘em” card with three competitive title fights. Do you see any surprises happening?
BOB ARUM: Well it’s “pick ‘em”, so there won’t be any surprises! In other words, I wouldn’t be surprised with any combination of these guys winning. They are all very tough, competitive fights, and that’s the way boxing should be. I think it would be very difficult for anybody to pick winners in these three fights and be 100% correct.
FN: Do any of them look like Saturday’s sure “Fight of the Night”?
BA: Well, I like Salido-Garcia because I love the way Salido fights, you know, a come-ahead guy. Mikey has great technical ability and tremendous power. So that fight is really going to be fireworks. And Golovkin and Rosado are two offensive fighters, and they’ll make a great, great fight. Martinez and Burgos are going to go after each other. Right now, I would say that Salido-Garcia is going to be the “Fight of the Night”, but either of the other fights could easily take that award.
FN: How long have you been promoting fights?
BA: Since 1966. March of ’66 was my first fight, Muhammad Ali vs. George Chuvalo in Toronto, Canada.
FN: So you’ve been going strong for more than 40 years (46 years). After all you’ve accomplished, what is the incentive to continue to promote fights at this level?
BA: A lot of it is the fighters that you get involved with. They are from different generations. At first the fighters were more or less contemporaries of mine. Then they became younger, but not that much younger. So I could relate. Now, they’re like my grandchildren. So, that’s fun. That really is nice. It’s unusual. Also because the world changes, their outlook on the world is different. These guys have a different outlook than the fighters in the 80s, with Leonard, Duran. You know, they’re just different. They come from a different era. So that’s fun. And the technology keeps me involved. What’s happening now on the digital platforms is something I would have never dreamed of, and that’s fun to be involved in. And then of course, because the world is becoming a smaller place, I promote the Philippine Icon Manny Pacquiao and various other Philippine fighters, but now Sunday I’m off to Beijing, China to sign the top fighter in China, who is an Olympic Gold Medalist and so forth. And that’s going to be an adventure because just the way Las Vegas meant so much to boxing in the United States, Semakau and Singapore are going to mean a lot for boxing in Asia, particularly in China and Malaysia. So for me, these are all new adventures. If it (promoting) was doing the same thing over and over again, you’d say enough is enough. But when new adventures come up every year, or every couple of years, and you’re off doing things that you never dreamed you would do before, how could you ever stop?
FN: At the press conference you talked a lot about how this is the era of the Hispanic fighter. Hispanic fighters have a huge fan base. Did that fan base come along with this era of fighters, or did you have to go out and develop it with marketing and promotion?
BA: It’s a two-part thing. In the Hispanic community, particularly among the Mexican Hispanics in the United States, boxing has been their #1 sport for years, forever really. So as these great Mexican and Hispanic fighters came up, they naturally accepted them because they were always interested in boxing. Now with the Caribbean Hispanics, the Puerto Ricans were at the party pretty early, while other Hispanics, like the Cubans, were not. So it’s a mixed bag. There it’s clear that their #1 sport is baseball, but boxing is now #2. And with the Mexican Hispanics in the United States, boxing has overtaken soccer as the #1 sport, and soccer is now #2. So that gives you a huge fan base. On the Pay-Per-View side, when the money really counts, over 60% of the homes buying the fight are Hispanic homes. So, those are our customers.
FN: Is there any difference in promoting to this fan base?
BA: Well, language is not particularly important because most Hispanics in the United States are bilingual, but the boxing style is important. With a Mexican fighter, they want a guy who’s going to go in a brawl and fight, and not dance around. Puerto Ricans are kind of a mixed bag. They appreciate fighters who are skilled technically, but ultimately the ones that they make into big stars are the real fighters like Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.
FN: Because I’m a Philly guy, I have to ask you one Philly-related question. One of the championship fights that you promoted in the 1970s was Alfredo Escalera vs. Tyrone Everett at the Philadelphia Spectrum, November 30, 1976. The fight was infamous for being one of the worst-ever decisions in boxing history. We in Philly can’t go a week without it still coming up. What do you recall about that fight?
BA: The event was very exciting, but that decision was the height of corruption. Everett won that fight very easily. Escalera was a good fighter, but there was no question that Everett won that fight. There was a Philadelphia judge that they had gotten to. So I think that Everett was cheated out of that fight, and cheated badly. I think it was corrupt. I mean there’s no question about it. After all these years, it’s not going to benefit anybody by me saying that, but I absolutely believe that Tyrone Everett was cheated out of that fight. Cheated not because of the way a judge viewed a fight, but cheated corruptly.