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Feature Story

Bob Arum speaks

...on Election Week with Manny Pacquiao

Chris Cozzone

BOB ARUM: I am back from one of the most exciting trips of my life and one of the most fulfilling trips. I am thinking now whether to pack it in as a boxing promoter and be a political consultant…but only in the Philippines and around the world. I don’t think there is anything more exciting and more interesting than politics and I really have to compliment Manny. People don’t realize that this victory over the candidate that he beat was a tremendous upset that very few people expected him to pull off. His opponent’s family holds all of the major businesses in this province. All the mayors and the congressman in the province are either related to this family belong to the family or are associates of the family. Manny Pacquiao was running against the elder son of the family and they hadn’t been defeated and won overwhelmingly in every election for 25 years. Manny Pacquiao is a fighter and with his grit and determination was not only able to win but to win by a landslide.

It reminded me of when he was fighting Oscar De La Hoya and all the boxing writers said we should be ashamed of ourselves because it was a mismatch and De La Hoya would destroy him. It was a mismatch but it was a mismatch the other way with Manny destroying De La Hoya. This was the same thing. Everybody said he was crazy, spending his own money. In certain precincts, Manny was beating this guy 90-10 and in other precincts 70-30 and when the dust settled, Manny will win by about a 3/1 margin. Manny is so humble and so soft spoken, you think, how can he be a politician? Then you go to his rally, and you hear him speak in the native dialect and he gives a rousing speech that brings the crowd to its feet. It is tremendous to hear him speak even though you don’t even understand a word. Something else that I learned – there are 7 dialects in the Philippines and Manny can speak every one of them.

Some of the reporters over there, who understand English, don’t even understand some of the dialects. I’m pumped up. When he’s 35 he can run for Senate, and when he’s 40, I am sure he’ll be President of the Philippines. He is special and we in boxing are lucky to have him be part of the sport.

Where do we stand with Manny’s next fight?

BOB ARUM: Manny is definitely going to fight in November. It’s amazing how many people came up to me as I was leaving the Philippines and asked me when is the Mayweather fight going to happen. That’s the fight people want to see. That’s the fight that I’m going to do my darndest to make happen. I don’t want to discuss any of the issues involved in making that fight because we are going to be involved in negotiations and my first goal and Manny’s first goal is to make that fight happen. But we are not going to negotiate this thing in the press, because given the egos of all the camps, it would never happen.

Did you discuss boxing at all with Manny?

BOB ARUM: Obviously, everybody was consumed with politics. But we did a lot of rallies, held on big stages, and before they get to Manny all the other politicians would speak. But we did discuss what we would do next.

What does Manny want to do next?

BOB ARUM: It’s the Mayweather fight. There is no question that is the fight that the public wants and that is the fight that Manny wants. I am not going to go into any details of our discussion only to say that is the case.

How do you engage with the other side?

BOB ARUM: I don’t want to get into that, only to say that there is a plan. I don’t want to get into what’s happening but there are things happening on the ground.

Do you think his political career will affect his boxing?

BOB ARUM: As far as psychological make-up I really can’t answer that. Let me again go through what I believe his duties will entail and how it will blend with boxing. A Congressman in the Philippines, especially one that is elected in a province has responsibilities over and above that of a congressman in the United States. By that I mean the federal government allocates the money to him that goes to the province. He in turn must allocate that money to various towns and mayors and so forth and that is a pretty big responsibility. He also has to attend sessions of congress, but that I believe is not time consuming. The sessions are not particularly lengthy. There will be a session in July then they are off for a few months. When he is training, he runs in the morning then sleeps then trains in the gym and then eats dinner then he has all this free time – that you see on 24/7. He’s around with his people. A lot of that free time will now be devoted to his people. I think that will be better, because there will be less wasted time that there appears to be now. There will be plenty of time to do his politics when he is in training and when he is out of training. The one activity I know it will affect is his playing billiards. He devotes a lot of time to playing billiards. I don’t see where his political responsibilities will affect how he prepares for fights, but we have to be aware of what those responsibilities are.

When do you plan to initiate contact with the Mayweather camp?

BOB ARUM: I would rather not comment on that. Just to say I have my marching orders and it will be sooner rather than later.

Do you expect Dallas to be interested?

BOB ARUM: Yes, I think the two sites we would be looking at are the same two sites, the MGM and Cowboys Stadium. Jerry is certainly interested and so is the MGM Grand. If the fight happens and I hope it will, in mid-November in one of those two places.

Do you think media reports affected negotiations in a bad way?

BOB ARUM: Absolutely. Once you start negotiating through the media, it becomes ego driven. People can’t wait to give a statement to the press. The flames just shoot up and there is no real opportunity for rational behavior to take over. Everyone is so interested is setting forth his position to the media that it becomes the contest. That involves me as well as everybody else.

Did you reserve specific dates?

BOB ARUM: Yes, November 13. November 6 would be reserved, but that is not as good a date because No. 1, I think the baseball World Series could possibly go that late and there is also question of the election. There is a big senatorial and congressional election.

Do you have reason to believe either side has softened its stance?

BOB ARUM: A negotiation is a negotiation. A lot of nice things happen if people negotiate in good faith and people want something good to happen and negotiate without going through the media. So let’s see what happens.

Could we bring the fighters to the table?

BOB ARUM: My guy is too busy with his congressional duties to do that. That’s why he has to delegate these things. The answer is he couldn’t do it. He doesn’t have the time to do it. He is not a congressman like the U.S. Congressman, he will get an allocation of millions of dollars of American money and he has to allocate to hospitals, schools, municipalities. To sit and spend time negotiation a fight is not something that’s productive. But he does have time to train and perform his best for a fight.

Do you think Manny will move on the drug questions?

BOB ARUM: I am not going to discuss through the media. I understand you need to ask the question, but I am not going to answer because that starts the negotiation in the media.

Did he say he only wants to fight one more time?

BOB ARUM: He discussed it but I’m not going to say what the answer is. It was told to me in confidence and I’m not at liberty to say. My belief is, based on my conversations with him, he will engage in probably 3 more fights.

Is your marriage with Dallas something that you are willing to let go?

BOB ARUM: First of all, I’m not married to Dallas. I’m a Giants fan, not even a Cowboys fan but I love Jerry Jones but I am not going to advocate putting any fight of Manny’s unless it makes the most sense. That’s not necessarily Dallas.

Is the lawsuit still in play?

BOB ARUM: Not in play, but the lawsuit is still being actively pursued.

Is this the biggest fight that boxing has ever seen?

BOB ARUM: Ever is a hard word. You are comparing different eras. There is no fight in my time that is equally anticipated as the first Ali-Frazer fight. But electronically, it was like the dark ages when we look back on it. There was no PPV, no satellite and so forth. Moving on, when Leonard and Duran fought. That was a huge fight. Leonard was on the cover of Newsweek which was a very big thing then and that was anticipated. And Leonard-Hearns. This fight in this era is probably the most anticipated fight and probably if it happens, will do the most dollar business. It is a different dollar now than it was then, and secondly it is not a fair comparison because electronically we can do so much more, not only in the U.S. but also around the world. We have all these PPV homes in the U.S. and in England, Canada, Puerto Rico…Philippines…all over. It’s THE FIGHT, that people want to watch. Getting on the plane in Manila, Going through that airport, hundreds of people came up to me and asked “is the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight going to happen? That’s the fight people want to see, there is no question a bout it.

BOB ARUM: I have no idea whether it is going to happen or not. Anybody that believes that the fight should happen should bet with Kevin Iole who doesn’t think the fight is going to happen. I don’t know.

Does the lawsuit become a deal breaker?

BOB ARUM: All these issues are on the table and they will be negotiated and nothing cannot be discussed.

If this fight doesn’t happen do you turn to Margarito?

BOB ARUM: California does not have to license him and obviously if we went to a Margarito fight he would apply for the license in the state he would fight in next, whether that would be Nevada or Texas, I would expect a good result.

Why is a stadium important?

BOB ARUM: Stadiums are important to boxing because it enables the most possible people to watch the event and that helps deal with the popularity of the sport. It’s not unique to boxing. Look at the Final Four, all now take place in massive venues and the reason is they can accommodate more people at a better price for the fans. I’m not the genius that figured this out. I’m just going along with what seems to be common sense. If you want your product seen by the most people you have to put it in the biggest venue.

What would this fight mean to you?

BOB ARUM: It would be great but there are other things other than fights. My great dream is to still be around to be at the inauguration of Manny Pacquiao of President of the Philippines. That would be the greatest achievement in my career. But that fight would be one of the greatest experiences in my career.

BOB ARUM: I think the person that lost is going to cooperate with Manny because it would be in their best interests to do that. I know that flying home from General Santos to Manila, I happened to be seated next to the candidate’s brother-in-law and he couldn’t have been more gracious in congratulating him.

Are you going to argue over the shape of the table?

BOB ARUM: No, I think we have moved on from that and I’m very optimistic that once we start we will conclude this time. I have to get on with it because I have another big campaign coming up. I feel very James Carville-like and have to make sure that my guy Harry Reid gets re-elected.

Have you been re-energized?

BOB ARUM: That is exactly what happened. It turned back the clock. I was checking on the precincts and the Philippines. I was amazed how I got into this and some of these discussions we were having. I really think that maybe more than a boxing promoter, my calling was as a politician or an operative. Manny will be in New York and will be at the Boxing Writers Awards dinner on June 4 and the Yankee Stadium fight on June 5. By the way, when we did another media tour we stopped in San Francisco and Manny threw out the first pitch to the Cy Young winner Lincicum and he said Manny threw a really good pitch.

If you can’t make this fight, is the back-up plan to fight in Dallas?

BOB ARUM: I can’t say that now but why not? I can’t look at that now. I thought you were going to ask whom he would fight, but the number one guy would be Margarito.

He was originally on the undercard of the Clottey fight, what happened?

BOB ARUM: We needed to have a hearing to get him licensed in Texas and we didn’t have enough time. We’d have to have a hearing, but we have time now.

* * *

BOB ARUM: On June 30, Manny will be sworn into office and we are planning to do a worldwide telecast of the swearing in. These are very exciting times. When he knew that he won the election, he told me two things. It made him so happy, even more than the big victories in the ring. And secondly he said something that really touched me. He said, “Bob, I am so proud of what I have accomplished. When someone says that, you know it was a life-long dream of his. He pulled it off and I am so happy for him. I have never seen anything like it and to me it is the pinnacle.




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