Top Rank Boxing Honcho Bob Arum – There are two big fights on the September docket, neither of which involves Bob Arum’s Top Rank firm. But Arum and his employees have been very busy lately, keeping the company’s name in the news.
Spurned by HBO, Arum announced that Top Rank would oversee the pay-per-view distribution of Manny Pacquiao’s next fight. Pacquaio opposes WBO World welterweight champion Jessie Vargas at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5.
Arum said that he is negotiating with major networks such as CBS, NBC, and ABC to air programming that would build interest in the event in the fashion of HBO’s “24/7.” As to who would replace HBO’s Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman, Arum promised to assemble a “star-studded” announcing team.
Manufacturing a pay-per-view event without one of the major cable networks strikes us as a daunting proposition, but this wouldn’t be the first time that Arum went off on his own, bucking the established PPV providers. In 1996, in a bold, revisionist move, he took the De La Hoya-Chavez match off pay-per-view and made it a closed-circuit commodity. Arum hoped that this move would goad the major cable networks into cracking down on the piracy of PPV events by “shoplifters” with so-called black boxes.
With the public showing little interest in the Pacquiao-Vargas fight, Arum understands that a strong undercard is imperative. To this end, he is working to add Nonito Donaire to the card. A champion in four weight divisions and the current WBO 122-pound world champion, Donaire (37-3, 24 KOs) is the second most-popular boxer in the Philippines. This would be the first time that he and Pacquiao appeared on the same show. Donaire would likely oppose Jessie Magdaleno (23-0) who, like Jessie Vargas, would be fighting in his hometown.
The lone heavyweight in Arum’s stable is Andy Ruiz, who is undefeated (28-0, 19 KOs) but still untested. The news that Ruiz, who turned 27 on Sept. 1, would be fighting Tyson Fury’s 21-year-old cousin Hughie Fury at the Manchester Arena on the undercard of Tyson’s heavyweight title defense against Wladimir Klitschko on Oct. 29 took many people by surprise. Ruiz, who opposes 40-year-old Franklin Lawrence this coming weekend at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, California, has been fighting men old enough to be Hughie Fury’s father and it didn’t seem that he would be bumped into a big crossroads fight this soon.
Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs) stands 6-foot-6, four inches taller than Ruiz, and keeps himself in better shape than Ruiz between engagements. However, Ruiz has faster hands, is lighter on his feet, and his punches carry more sting. Strange things happen when American fighters go to Europe to oppose a homegrown prospect. The Americans often lose their fighting instinct on the way to the arena, a situation that betrays a gentleman’s agreement. Having said that, we have never known a Top Rank fighter to go on the road and intentionally stumble. All things considered, we prefer the Mexican-American from California’s Imperial Valley.
Whoever wins becomes the mandatory challenger for the lineal heavyweight champion, either Tyson Fury or Wladimir Klitschko, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a Fury-Fury fight, no matter how things shake out in Manchester on Oct. 29. Trust us; it will never happen.
On Friday, Sept. 2, Top Rank president Todd DuBoef, Arum’s son-in-law, announced that Top Rank had signed Brazilian lightweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medal winner in the recently concluded Rio games.
In Rio, Conceicao upset Cuban world champion Lazaro Alvarez in the semifinals and then defeated Sofiane Oumiha of France to earn the distinction of becoming the first Brazilian to win a gold medal in boxing. Already a well-known figure in Brazilian sporting circles, his victory over Oumiha before a delirious crowd of supporters elevated him into a national hero.
Bob Arum has always been partial to boxers who arrive on the doorstep of the professional game with a ready-made storyline. The 27-year-old Conceicao, a three-time Olympian, has a compelling story. As a young boy growing up in a tough neighborhood in the city of Salvador, he reportedly rose before dawn each day to help his grandmother with her vegetable cart. Then it was off to school. When he took up boxing, he joined a gym that was roughly 6 miles from his house. Lacking bus fare, he ran back and forth.
Conceicao isn’t the only boxer in his family. His wife Erika Matos is a prominent amateur boxer with multiple titles to her credit. They have a 2-year-old daughter.
DuBoef says that Conceicao will make his pro debut in a six-round bout on the Pacquiao-Vargas card.
Top Rank Boxing Honcho Bob Arum