Fairly often, Bob Arum will admit that he is prone to acting like a promoter and putting on a too-cheery face even if the circumstances would dictate otherwise if he didn’t have a dog in the hunt.
I was thinking about that when I asked him Friday if he definitely expected an instant classic Saturday night in the MGM Bubble, when WBC junior lightweight champ Miguel Berchelt fights Oscar Valdez, the ex-featherweight titlist, in an all-Mexico tussle.
Berchelt reps Hermosillo, while Valdez is a native of Nogales, so bragging rights for a nation are part of the stakes in this event, which will stream on ESPN+ and also air ESPN.
“This thing is gonna be a classic,” Arum told me Friday night. “I’m gonna be watching with tears in my eyes, knowing that if this is three months later, it’s in a sold-out Staples Center.”
I knew I was serving the fattest of under-hand pitches to Arum, wondering aloud if the Mexicans would deliver a Fight of the Year in Las Vegas. But more seriously, I asked if there were times when Arum has more of a gut feeling that a certain bout is going to reach or surpass sky-high expectations.
How to Watch Berchelt vs Valdez
Date: Saturday, Feb. 20 | Start Time: 6:30 pm ET (Undercard) / 10:00 pm ET (Main)
Location: MGM Grand - Las Vegas, NV
TV: ESPN | Streaming: ESPN+
Online Coverage: BadLeftHook.com
“Yeah. For example, coming in to Erik Morales vs Marco Antonio Barrera (in 2000), I knew it would be a terrific fight,” he said. “Admittedly, I didn’t know it would be as good as it turned out to be. But there’s no question about it.
“I’m the promoter, but I’m not selling this to the public, it’s free. It’s not like it’s on pay-per-view and I’m trying to convince people to buy it. But yeah, also, sure, I want a good rating.”
“Mauricio Sulaiman called me, and told me that everyone is talking about it in Mexico,” Arum stated. “It’s like it was when Julio Cesar Chavez Sr was fighting. I know, it’s probably not the same where you are, where there isn’t such a Hispanic population. But this is gonna be really big.”
We talked about the fighters deserving some respect for doing this now, not looking to put it off and wait for herd immunity to kick in, so they could enjoy bargaining leverage to obtain maximum purses.
“But it will pay off. I really think that in six months or whatever these guys come back and sell out Staples Center and get rewarded,” Arum offered.
Thinking about the future is now easier for some folks who are reading news about some better coronavirus trends in the United States. Count Arum in that group.
“So many older people are getting the vaccine,” he said, and he thinks that between the numbers of people who have had the virus and fought it off, with the numbers who will gain immunity from the vaccine, more normalcy will be enjoyed by the masses. He estimates we are at about 40% toward herd immunity, and within just a couple months can get to like 80%.
“This is our last show in this bubble with no spectators,” Arum said. “The next ones are gonna be outside the bubble. Yes, there will be testing and we’ll be safe, but we’ll have spectators. This bubble, it’s like it’s in a medical facility. I think we’re getting the virus under control.”