So you’re a boxing fan who wants to know how UFC ever took over the combat sports’ arena? Go ask Bob Arum.
There are many reasons why mixed martial arts have left boxing in the dust among young fans over the past couple of years but the clearest is this – UFC makes the fights its fans want. Boxing makes the fights its promoters want.
In UFC the business is about pleasing the fans. In boxing the business is about giving the business to your promotional rivals.
That is how boxing ended up with Manny Pacquiao, the best fighter in the world, matched against aged Shane Mosley, who has done nothing to win this opportunity except the thing that matters most to Arum – which is walking away from Oscar De La Hoya’s promotional company to venture off on his own.
That allowed Arum to avoid what is the better fight for both Pacquiao and boxing – a third meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez. Short of a showdown with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. there is no more compelling match for Pacquiao or for fight fans but that doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for Arum’s agenda.
Arum never wanted a Marquez rematch but not because Marquez has proven to be a clever and difficult opponent for Pacquiao. His opposition to it had nothing to do with the fact they fought to a draw in their first meeting and a controversial split decision Pacquiao victory in the second, a decision many in boxing felt should have gone the other way.
In reality, those outcomes would have been good for business, creating a compelling story line to go with the challenging nature of the opposition in a third fight. But Arum had other concerns, ones that had nothing to do with what’s best for the sport that’s made him a multi-millionaire or for his fighter, Pacquiao.
Arum’s opposition to a Marquez fight was simple and singular: he is still promoted by De La Hoya, Arum’s former fighter, and Arum does not want to do business with him.
Even when Arum was floating his phony list of potential Pacquiao opponents – Mosley, Marquez and WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto – he declared that if the choice was Marquez, Golden Boy could not be involved in the promotion. De La Hoya agree to be bought out but what that guaranteed was that the number Marquez would ask for was going to exceed the one Mosley would accept once you added in Golden Boy’s step aside fee.
Arum claimed Marquez’s financial demand was “so damn high,’’ that there was no comparison with the $5 million purse Mosley agreed to. Arum said Marquez was insisting on double the $3.2 million purse he earned when he fought Floyd Mayweather, Jr., a charge Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer denied while admitting that whatever Marquez was paid had to include a buyout for Golden Boy, who promoted the Marquez-Mayweather fight.
If, in fact, that total equaled $6.2 million, so what? Pacquiao would still make much more and Arum would not be forced to sell pencils on the corner. More importantly, which is the more compelling fight for the people who pay all the bills – the fans of the sport?
Which is a better sell the weekend of Cinco de Mayo: the finest fighter in the world against his long-time Hispanic nemesis or the finest fighter in the world against a 39-year-old African-American opponent who is 0-1-1 this year and in his last outing fought a lackluster draw against journeyman Sergio Mora?
Arum insists Mosley is the bigger draw because he is better known but the fact of the matter is Mosley was never a big draw even when he was the best lightweight in the world. Even after twice beating De La Hoya, Mosley remained the B side of any big promotion.
The difference is in those days Mosley could fight but he could not sell. These days he can’t do either, yet Arum convinced Pacquiao he was the best way to go because, frankly, he never wanted to go in any other direction from the minute Mosley said he was willing to walk away from De La Hoya.
This is despite the fact Arum was one of Mosley’s loudest critics after his lackluster draw with Mora in September. At that time Arum said he was not interested in matching him with Pacquiao because he was nearly 40 years old and looked shot.
But after Pacquiao destroyed Antonio Margarito (another Arum fighter) in his last outing and the possibility of a Mayweather fight continued in silent limbo, Arum announced he would seek term sheets from Mosley, Marquez and Berto and present them to Pacquiao for a final decision. Suddenly Mosley (now sans Golden Boy) was no longer an old man and a shot fighter. Now he was the logical choice because he had Mayweather in trouble (sure he did, just before the ass-whipping started) and was a victim of Golden Boy’s mismanagement for matching him against the stylistically challenging Mora.
While you cannot blame Arum in particular for the sport not getting the fight the world wants – which is Mayweather-Pacquiao – you can blame him for not delivering the next best option, which is Pacquiao-Marquez.
So once again boxing has done what it has done so often in the past, which is reward the boxer who least deserves a fight with Pacquiao. While Mosley is 0-1-1 in his last three outings and looked terrible from the third round of the Mayweather fight on, Marquez recovered from losing a decision to the far bigger Mayweather last year with commanding victories over Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis to reclaim the unified (WBA and WBO) lightweight title.
Juan Manuel Marquez earned the right to a third fight with Manny Pacquiao by beating top opponents. Shane Mosley earned it for walking out on his promoter. That’s boxing.
It’s also why UFC is the fastest growing combat sport in the world while prize fighting exists on the margins of the sporting world, barely on life support.