Promoter Bob Arum has surely heard the grumbling about Saturday night’s ESPN pay-per-view card, where Terence Crawford faces Amir Khan in the main event, but being the true promoter that he is, he’s mostly ignoring all that, at least for now.
“Saturday night is a great event, a real salute to boxing,” Arum said at the final press conference. “Boxing, thanks to ESPN, is now becoming once again the major sport that it was when I first started promoting, almost 55 years ago.”
The Hall of Fame promoter also talked about returning to Madison Square Garden, one of the true great venues in boxing history, and sounded as happy to be here now as he’s ever been, even after all these decades in the sport.
“Boxing is part of the DNA of this building,” he said. “I remember when they opened this building, one of the first events was a heavyweight championship fight between the great Smokin’ Joe Frazier and (Buster) Mathis, a big heavyweight, and Frazier won that fight.
“The second fight on the card was a classic middleweight championship match between Nino Benvenuti of Italy and the great Emile Griffith, and Benvenuti won that fight. That started boxing in this building.
“Everybody remembers a lot of the old fights that took place in the old Madison Square Garden, but this building, this Madison Square Garden, all the great fighters fight here because it is symbolic of the sport of boxing.”
Later, he talked about the main event on Saturday, pitting Crawford against Khan, and went into true bombastic promoter mode.
“Anybody who knows anything in boxing knows that a Terence Crawford comes along very, very seldom in a generation,” Arum said. “The closest that I remember that I promoted was the great Sugar Ray Leonard. Terence reminds me of Sugar Ray Leonard. I’m not gonna get into who would win if they fought each other, because ain’t gonna happen. But Terence is really something special.
“I’m so delighted that we’ve been able to arrange this fight with Terence against Amir Khan. I’ve always been an admirer of Amir Khan. Tremendous, tremendous fighter. I know what he brings to this party, and I am really looking forward to performances by two great fighters.
“A generational talent in Terence Crawford and one of the best fighters that I’ve ever seen in Amir Khan. I remember how brilliant he was in the amateurs and how he boxes to perfection. Great, great fight on Saturday night.”
He closed the presser by comparing this matchup to some of the all-time classics.
“It’s gonna be a great fight. Really, truly a great fight,” he said. “As an old guy, which I admit I am, I’ve promoted a lot of great fights in the welterweight division. They were so good that I remember them to this day. I remember Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in a rainy, outdoor stadium in Montreal. I remember when Tommy (Hearns) and Ray fought for the first time.
“Those were classic, classic fights that people remember what happened, how one fighter was up ahead and the other fighter came back. That’s part of history in sports and it’s the lore of boxing.
“I promise you that this fight Saturday night between the champion Terence Crawford and the challenger Amir Khan will be one of those fights, and people years from now, long after I’m gone, will remember this fight as a classic fight and they’ll relive it and tell what happened to their children and grandchildren.”