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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Promoter Bob Arum gets in his shots ahead of Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight

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Pacquiao vs Clottey
By Bill Dwyre

Reporting from Arlington, Texas

The gloves are off, and this isn't even hockey.

Manny Pacquiao will fight Joshua Clottey on Saturday night in an airplane construction hangar known as Cowboys Stadium. Think of two Staples Centers, placed side by side, with a retractable roof, and you've got it. The people at Boeing are green with envy.

If Texas truly wants us to believe everything is bigger here, then with this, it wins.

Such is the backdrop for the match.

But this is boxing, and a bigger fight is going on outside the ring. Bob Arum, president of Top Rank, called Saturday night's fight a "huge moment" for his sport, and he was referring to much more than punches in the ring.

Arum used the platform here to torch his largest competitor and, until recently, his business partners, Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions. Arum also directed cracks at the Las Vegas casinos, with whom he has been doing business for years, and at the Floyd Mayweather Jr. camp, which was represented in the failed Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations by Schaefer and Golden Boy.

It was a wide-ranging smackdown, clearly an aftershock of the Pacquiao-Mayweather controversy. Even for the ever-controversial and outspoken Arum, it was surprising in its depth of bitterness. Hollywood might want to grab this one for a reality series: Arum, a 78-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer, versus Schaefer, a 49-year-old former Swiss banker.

As recently as the December 2008 Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight, which made both sides filthy rich, the relationship was sugar and spice and everything nice. No more. The Vegas future book is expected to open soon with Arum a 2-1 favorite.

In an impromptu gathering here Wednesday, before the start of a news conference for the fight, Arum said the future of boxing was in big fights in big stadiums, such as Saturday night's. He mentioned Yankee Stadium, where he will promote a fight in June, and the Meadowlands in New Jersey as his prototypes, as well as more in Dallas.

"If boxing is to be big league — and it's not now — we have to put on these kinds of big events around the world," he said. "We can't be big league by putting on the same old casino fights.

"I look at these Vegas fights and I look ringside and all I see is people from Hong Kong. Nothing but guys from China. You aren't going to grow boxing's brand like that. The casinos don't give a damn about anything other than their customers, and it becomes a circus act."

He implied that he was pretty much out of business with the MGM Grand, where he has held the bulk of his big fights in recent years, because "Golden Boy is in bed with MGM."

Asked if he worried about upsetting Schaefer and Golden Boy with his comments, Arum, surrounded by about 10 writers, said, "…Golden Boy." Fill in your own profanity.

Schaefer, reached by telephone in Los Angeles, took the high road.

"It sounds like Bob is declaring war," Schaefer said. "I am sorry he feels like that. I respect him and Top Rank, and I won't get involved in this back-and-forth."

Arum, of course, is sly like a fox. He knows there are more ways of calling attention to a boxing match than praising the competitors at a news conference. He also knows that his line of pro-big-stadium, anti-casino talk will help endear him to new investors in the sport, such as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the man who built this most recent Texas treasure.

Most men Arum's age stop looking forward. At 78, he still has visions of grandeur. He talks about having fights in Jones' stadium that would headline Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who can't fight a lick but can sell tickets. He talks about getting a license in Texas for the suspended and disgraced Antonio Margarito, knowing that there might be enough Mexican support nearby to be worthy of a Cowboys Stadium match.

He is at his best as an attack dog. He heard of an incident last week in which TV reporter Chino Trinidad of GMA News in the Philippines was denied access to Mayweather at a Mayweather-Shane Mosley news media gathering in Los Angeles to promote their May 1 Las Vegas fight. Trinidad said he was told he would not get an interview — when all other members of the media could and did — because Mayweather wouldn't talk to Filipino reporters.

"That's racist," Arum said. "If anybody on my staff denied a reporter like that, they'd be gone."

It is also possible that Arum was merely setting the table for the next round of talks, post Pacquiao-Clottey and Mayweather-Mosley fights, for the boxing granddaddy of them all: Pacquiao-Mayweather.

Schaefer and Mayweather have said they won't fight at Cowboys Stadium. Negotiations to that end failed before. Perhaps if Arum makes them mad enough, they'll stop talking about steroids and the glory of Vegas fights and take on Pacquiao here just to make Arum shut up. Arum could act shocked and giggle all the way to the bank.

It is boxing. There is always a method to all the madness. And it is never dull.


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