It’s been a mixed bag of a year for Bob Arum. On the plus side, he and his organization, Top Rank, were exonerated this summer as the FBI announced, with less fanfare than they showed in leaking tidbits of their “progress,” that they were dropping an investigation into the outfit for business improprieties.
But Arum has also had to fend off a newcomer to the plateau he and fellow promotional giant Don King have enjoyed sole access to since the late 70s. So far, still fit and fiery at 74, Arum has slipped and countered the vigorous incursion from his old cash cow, the fledgling promoter Oscar De La Hoya.
Arum, who was born in The City, jetted to NYC from Las Vegas on Tuesday for an appearance at the fabled Friar’s Club in the city, for a session with media to point attention to his association with the cable outlet Versus.
Arum provides for the network, both live cards and taped content from his vast library. That relationship, Arum told TSS in a phoner, since we couldn’t make the Friar’s Club gig, has been successful in his eyes. The Versus suits, and the Harvard-educated former US Attorney, are pleased with the progress, ratings-wise. The show started out with low numbers, between a .2 and .3, but lately has been edging towards a 1.0 mark. So Arum is still looking to grow the company, and his stable is still solid: there’s Miguel Cotto, now properly ensconced in a suitable weight class and poised to break into PPV territory in 2007; Antonio Margarito, instilling fear in the hearts and minds of hesitant foes; and Erik Morales, still a force to be reckoned with (for how much longer, we’ll see on Nov. 18, when Manny Pacquiao and he break their 1-1 tie).
Cotto and Margarito will look to continue their winning streaks on Dec. 2, with bouts against 23-0 Puerto Rican lefty Carlos Quintana, and Josh Clottey, the 29-1 slugger from Ghana, respectively. Arum is of course vested in those matches, and Morales’ upcoming squareoff with thespian/singing star/bingo parlor owner/basketball team owner/philanthropist Manny Pacquiao, the most popular man in the Philippines. But he will also have one eye cocked to another show, one taking place this Saturday in Las Vegas. There, Pretty Boy Floyd “Don’t Call Me Junior” Mayweather will be tested by WBC welterweight titlist, the late-blooming bomber, Carlos Baldomir.
Actually Arum would probably point out to me if he were looking over my shoulder, “bomber” isn’t the right word to use to describe Baldy. In 58 pro fights, Arum pointed out, Baldomir has notched 13 kayoes.
“Baldomir fought Zab Judah, who didn’t take him seriously, and eked out a close decision,” Arum said. “Then the Gatti people picked Baldomir because he had a title, and Gatti couldn’t beat him. But he’s a titlist on the strength of wins over Judah and Gatti, big deal. He has absolutely no shot against Floyd. He’s too slow, he doesn’t punch hard enough.”
And lest any of you are out there thinking, C’mon Arum’s just miffed because PBF spurned a megabucks Margarito scrap, know this: Baldomir was a Top Rank fighter for a spell. Presumably, Arum knows of what he speaks on this matter.
“Baldomir’s a good journeyman, period,” said the promoter, who hits 75 on Dec. 8. “Pretty Boy Floyd will beat him up and they’ll stop the fight.”
Further exhibits to be presented to the court of pugilistic opinion: Clottey has fought Baldomir – granted, it was in 1999, when Baldy’s confidence level was at about ½ tank, and to Arum’s recall, Clottey was dishing it to Baldy when he was DQ’d for headbutting.
“Clottey’s better than Baldomir,” he said.
As for the prospects of corralling PBF to meet the 28-year-old Margarito, the 33-4 Tijuana Tornado, Arum isn’t banking on it.
“Floyd versus Oscar can be made,” he said. “Junior has no intention of fighting Margarito. He’s a student of the game and Margarito’s style doesn’t suit him. Margarito will stand in there and that’s a great danger to Floyd. He’d rather knock off guys less challenging than Margarito and that’s no disgrace. You’ve always had that in boxing.”
Yup, Arum’s still Harvard smart, and Brooklyn-street-smooth.
He knows PBF’s got a healthy ego, that if he keeps chipping away, implying that he’s ducking Margarito, then if PBF and Oscar doesn’t get made, the fans will demand PBF/Margarito as their consolation prize.
Breathing down on 75, and still on that plateau. Bob Arum, it looks like, ain’t giving up his ground any time soon.