Eddie Gonzalez returns to Bad Left Hook this morning. His topic of discussion: Bob Arum's recent comments about Floyd Mayweather's racism being a true concern when making a fight with Manny Pacquiao.
In the beginning, this was going to be a rant about how Bob Arum is the only man standing in the way of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao actually, you know, fighting. I was going to post a ton of his random quotes, point out Bob contradicting himself. Point out quotes from the past where he had an extremely high opinion of Floyd (like his comment that Floyd is "Better than Sugar Ray Leonard" after his victory over Diego Corrales), comparing them to quotes from now, where his opinion of Floyd is different.
I was basically going to map out why I have come to dislike Bob Arum in general and feel in some ways he's bad for boxing. Then, Bob upped it a notch with the recent remarks that he was concerned about Mayweather's racism. Then I was more confused than ever. I am still certain that Bob is the only man standing in the way of (possibly) the richest fight ever, but now I think Bob is a little delusional.
[ Related: Bob Arum Concerned About Mayweather Racism ]
Race is always a touchy subject in sports, always one that is sure to ignite emotions and opinions. Sports is one of the public forums that still features racism prominently. If it isn't NBA players (and Bryant Gumbel) calling David Stern a slave owner, or Tiger Woods' former caddie referring to him by his color, then it's something else. Every day. How could it not be? In what other forum in life do we see so many people (particularly young men) from different races, nationalities, countries, religions, and backgrounds competing against each and working together, publicly?
But in boxing, it's a little different.
In boxing, as in pro wrestling and now in mixed martial arts, race is often used as a promotional tool. Bob himself had a pair of pay-per-view series called "Pinoy Power" and "Latin Fury." Bob knows that race matters, and can be used as a tool. Bob signed Kelly Pavlik because he, just like the rest of us, knows that a popular white American boxer can basically plant money trees for a promoter if successful. After a ton of trouble and set acks, Bob is staying in the Kelly Pavlik business, because it can be lucrative.
Pitting races against each other is nothing new. Mexican fighters fighting Puerto Rican fighters is "tradition" that is raved about in boxing. This week, with the passing of Joe Frazier, there has been plenty of talk about the way Muhammad Ali used race as a promotional tool for their epic fights. Race as a promotional tool is as old as boxing itself.
Racism should not be used as a promotional tool. Pitting races (and nations) against each other is a little different. One of the more famous examples is Bernard Hopkins throwing down the Puerto Rican flag before his fight with Felix Trinidad (Trinidad also threw the American flag). It gets people talking, picking sides, and becoming passionate about the fights and the fighters. It makes people care. Hopkins-Trinidad was already a spectacle (which all Tito fights were at the time) but that pushed it over the top (9/11 also played up the American vs foreigner angle for Bernard, as he came into the ring with an American flag around his neck).
This, of course, isn't n-word racism. Or the racism Floyd showed on UStream, or anything that people involved in the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's faced. And racism of that manner should not be used as promotion for anything. But, race itself is something that gets people talking, and is used by promoters to their advantage.
And some could argue that pitting race against race for promotion of a fight, and actual fight between people of each race, is in itself racism.
In a potential Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao fight the clash of races is interesting. Floyd (or more specifically the character "Money") is the typical loud, arrogant, rapper-like personality that some people have come to expect from African-American athletes. For what it's worth I personally don't think this is the real Floyd at all. Pretty Boy Floyd was a whole different guy, a modest soft spoken boxing lifer who more than anything respected the sport. The controversial loud mouth, money burning, arrogant "Money" just sells better.
Manny, a modest soft spoken national treasure who embodies the hard working spirit of his country, the Philippines. Their characters would be played up in any promotion. Their race would also be.
Bob said he was worried about Floyd's racism. Like Scott mentioned previously on the site, I don't believe that Floyd would be at the infamous UStream levels of racism during promotion. But the races of each fighter will be used to promote this fight. Both bring unique and specific audiences, dedicated fans who pay for their fights and buy their merchandise. Floyd takes pride in his race. Manny takes pride in his race. They don't hide it.
Each fighter gets "his people" watching his fights more than any other fighter of that race. They make people of their race care about boxing, and more importantly, their fights. Bob knows this. African-Americans watch Floyd more than any other fighter. Filipinos and Filipino-Americans watch Manny more than any other fighter. And subsequently they watch the other, because he is seen as the lone true opposition for their guy.
These races have already been pitted against one another. Bob knows this. Bob himself has used race to his advantage in the past, and he will again to increase the audience for this fight. Race will help promote this fight.
Lastly, could you imagine if Floyd pulled the Hopkins flag-throw at a promotional stop in the Philippines? How many buys would that be responsible for? 1 million? 1.3? 2? Bob can. Bob wants this would happen, trust me. And as always in boxing, it will all be for promotion.
Weekend Fight Picks
Manny Pacquiao TKO 6 Juan Manuel Marquez: No way Marquez stands up to Manny's power for an entire fight. I see the ref stepping in to stop the fight at some point midway through the fight. Could go to a decision if JMM pulls the "just want to make it to the bell" strategy that Manny's past opponents have used. (I don't think JMM will, that isn't the way he fights.)
Timothy Bradley UD Joel Casamayor: Yawn.