He will be there on site Saturday in Texas, but not ‘til after he hits the event in LA which honors Glenn Close.
Promoter Bob Arum and his Top Rank head up the promotion which is topped by an Eleider Alvarez vs Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight title fight. This is a sequel to their Aug. 2018 scrap, one of HBO’s last big deal tussles, and it will unfold in Cowboys territory, airing on both ESPN and ESPN+.
Quick aside: I was chatting with a boxing friend, who works in media, and he lamented how so much coverage these days is afforded to the promoters instead of the fighters. Point taken, I told my pal, but I didn’t really fully flesh it out with him, noting that Arum is a better interview, offers better sound bites, is more incisive and provocative and interesting than 95% of the athletes. And when the athletes offer what Arum does to an interviewer/reporter, then we will talk to him and other loquacious promoters less, and fighters more.
So looking past the Glenn Close fete and to the Saturday card — which also features a Richard Commey vs Isa Chaniev IBF 135-pound title fight, as well as Teofimo Lopez’s next step up the lightweight ladder, his testing of vet Diego Magdaleno, not to mention Oscar Valdez’s return after almost a year away — what are the stakes for this collection of bouts?
Once again, it must be noted, Arum said, that his crew is working in concert with promoters, including Lou DiBella, who works with Richard Commey.
“Hopefully, Commey wins and we put him in with Lomachenko,” Arum said, speaking of an April time frame.
We touched on a larger issue within boxing and sports, that being the reality that so many of these A-side boxers are entering fights with legal issues over their heads, and many of those, worryingly, are domestic issues. Arum told me he’s he’s been told by persons with knowledge of what’s facing Kovalev that he will be exonerated.
“But we don’t know that for a fact, and it’s innocent until proven guilty,” Arum said, while allowing that he doesn’t like all the instances of domestic fracases which are bedeviling pugilists.
Arum said Adrien Broner had the same issue hanging over is head coming in to his fight with Manny Pacquiao, “and it didn’t affect the guy, because he can’t fight anyway.”
We touched on the Broner issue and how he still draws ratings and attention and it is almost immaterial for the people who hitch him to their wagons how well he does in the ring.
“I don’t think they care (as long as he gets ratings),” said the 87-year-old deal-maker, born in Brooklyn.
Arum wasn’t all that impressed by another PBC welterweight, that being Keith Thurman. He looked “atrocious” against Josesito Lopez, who Arum referred to as a “journeyman.” Thurman’s best days might well be behind him, Arum said, and he was surprised, it seems, that Lopez was able to so stun the Floridian.
Arum kept on being candid, and yep, that’s why he gets interviewed.
He said that yes indeed, he didn’t go guns a-blazin’ to make a Manny Pacquiao versus Bud Crawford fight after Pacman fought Jeff Horn, because he detected Pacman’s part-time attitude toward fighting.
“So I never pushed it,” Arum said. “I’m not stupid. Crawford is a completely different animal from Manny at this point.”
I don’t think Arum was so blown away by Manny against Lucas Matthysse and Broner that he thinks the Senator has turned back the clock to another era.
“In his 40s, an athlete in every sport doesn’t have the ability they had years ago, except Tom Brady,” said Arum, a Giants fan who will root for the Rams Sunday over the Pats, because he spends so much time in LA.
And we swing back to the Saturday card. Teofimo Lopez “is like a freight train and he’s fighting a good guy, maybe a little past his sell-by, but was a contender.”
Yes, it would be a good bet that we see Teofimo at Madison Square Garden in April when Crawford seeks to drop and stop Amir Khan.
As for Valdez’s foe, Arum said that 19-0 Carmine Tommasone is a “good European fighter,” and “we’ll see if Oscar lost anything from the layoff.” (His fractured jaw needed time to set and heal.)
More Arum miscellany...
—He and ESPN want to not just have boxing be a Saturday night thing. So Sunday dates and such will be a regular thing.
—Arum thinks the Feb. 10 Jose Ramirez scrap against Jose Zepeda in Fresno will be fan friendly. Same goes for the Ray Beltran-Hiroki Okada tango that same night.
—Arum isn’t put off or feeling jealous or out of sorts that DAZN’s spending spree continues. It looks like they are close to snagging GGG, and Arum said Top Rank never looked to sign GGG. ESPN talked to him, he said, but “Top Rank ain’t gonna be writin’ those checks. I don’t mind losing a little money (on a promotion here and there), but not getting slaughtered.” He said no, he doesn’t believe the Pacquiao-Broner PPV did 400,000 buys. “If you believe that, I got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you,” he cracked. He said some of these deals are suicide and there’s no way to reach the numbers you need to make money back and then some. So, back to GGG: “This is the way we stay in business, we’re not schmucks. DAZN has a game plan, to get subscribers. Other than boxing and second tier MMA, they have very little to offer, unlike ESPN. They see signings as big investments, to build their business, so their plan is totally different than ESPN’s. I can’t fault them, they have a considerable bank account, we’ll see if it pans out.”
—Top Rank has some foot holds at 175. Oleksandr Gvozdyk fights March 30 in Philly, I think Doudou Ngumbu might be his rival on that night. Then Artur Beterbiev should be getting a fight in before Ramadan, maybe against Sullivan Barrera.
—Michael Woods, a Park Slope, Brooklyn resident, was a staff writer at NY Newsday, before joining ESPN The Magazne (2003-2014). He edited TheSweetScience.com (2007-20015), now publishes NYFights.com, calls fights for Facebook Fightnight Live, which has drawn over 4 million views over a span of 26 events, and does the “Talkbox” podcast for Everlast. Gerry Cooney was a recent guest.