TOP RANK BOXING — This has been a year of milestones for the indefatigable Bob Arum. In March, the Top Rank honcho celebrated his 50th year in the business. The Lomachenko-Walters fight this Saturday marks his 2000th boxing promotion. According to info compiled by matchmaker Bruce Trampler, Arum has promoted or co-promoted fights in 215 U.S. cities spread across 42 states. In addition, he has arranged more than six dozen shows at venues outside the United States.
The great Negro Leagues baseball pitcher Satchel Paige once famously said “Don’t look back; something might be gaining on you.” Arum has embraced this counsel. At an age when he’s entitled to while away the hours playing checkers or going fishing or writing his memoirs, Arum keeps plowing forward.
In the last few months, his company has been on a buying spree. Several of the newbies in the Top Rank stable aren’t old enough to vote. As Arum gets older — he turns 85 in December – the cast of boxers under his umbrella gets younger. Maybe that’s the prescription for staying young.
Here are snapshots of six boxers who recently left the amateur ranks to join the Top Rank family:
Considered the gem of Arum’s 2016 recruiting class, Conlan, who turned 25 earlier this month, was the favorite to win the bantamweight competition at the 2016 Rio Olympiad. He was eliminated in the quarterfinals by his Russian opponent, Vladimir Nikitin.
Conlan (pictured) didn’t take the verdict lightly. Interviewed in the ring, he authored an expletive-peppered rant at unnamed higher-ups in international amateur boxing, describing them on live television as “cheating bastards.” He gave the judges the middle finger as he exited the ring. The next day, the storm of outrage that attended the preposterous verdict grew louder when the Russian was forced to withdraw from the competition because of injuries suffered in his bout with Conlan.
Knowing Arum, he wasn’t smitten by Conlan’s ring skills so much as he was smitten by Conlan’s charismatic personality. The Irishman from Belfast is a big star in a city that has gone ga-ga over native son Carl Frampton, the reigning WBA featherweight champion. “I really believe,” says Arum, “that Michael Conlan will do for boxing what Conor McGregor has done for the UFC.”
Conlan will reportedly take up residence in Southern California in January where he will train at Manny Robles’ gym in Carson. Robles trains Irish middleweight Jason Quiqley, WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez, and newly crowned WBO super bantamweight champion Jessie Magdaleno, among others. If all goes according to plan, Conlan will make his pro debut on March 17, 2017, St. Patrick’s Day, at Madison Square Garden.
The greybeard of the newbies at age 28, Conceicao is the first Brazilian to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing. A three-time Olympian, he accomplished the trick on his home turf, turning away his French opponent in the finals before a delirious crowd in Rio.
Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country, has produced relatively few top-tier boxers. Conceicao hopes to follow in the footsteps of Eder Jofre and Acelino Freitas, both of whom became national heroes. He passed his first pro test, coasting to a 6-round decision over Clay Burns on Nov. 5 in Las Vegas on the undercard of Pacquiao-Vargas.
Lopez was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Davie, Florida, where he currently resides. Denied a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic squad because of a technicality, Lopez found his way to Rio by representing Honduras, the birthplace of his parents. He was the lone boxer on the 26-member Honduras Olympic team.
Akin to Conciecao, Lopez made his pro debut on the Pacquiao-Vargas card. The 19-year-old lightweight knocked out his opponent in the second round. Top Rank VP Carl Moretti says that Lopez’s style is far better suited to the pros than to the amateurs. His first pro fight gave credence to that opinion.
Adorno is only 17 years old. Of Puerto Rican descent, he hails from the city of Allentown in Pennsylvania’s rust belt Lehigh Valley. Upon signing with Top Rank, he moved west to train at Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California. Garcia, who has signed on as Adorno’s co-manager, likens him to a young Miguel Cotto. Reportedly 178-22 as an amateur, the precocious Adorno, a lightweight, is slated to make his pro debut on Saturday on the Lomachenko-Walters card.
GABRIEL FLORES, JR.
A decorated amateur who figures to begin his pro career as a junior welterweight, Flores is the youngest boxer that Top Rank has ever signed. You won’t see him in a U.S. ring until May of next year when he turns 17.
Bob Arum loves a fighter with a good back story and young Flores, from Stockton, California, has a compelling back story. At age 12, he lost his mother to gang violence. She was fatally wounded by a stray bullet intended for another person. An uncle was also the victim of gang warfare, a plague in recession-ravaged Stockton where the real estate bubble left large swaths of the city awash in abandoned homes.
Flores was invited to sit on the dais at the final press luncheon for the Pacquaio-Vargas fight. He shared his story with the audience and vowed to dedicate his career to reducing gang violence. His advisor, Rick Mirigian, also handles 2012 U.S. Olympian Jose Ramirez, Top Rank’s prize welterweight prospect. Ramirez has sold out arenas in Fresno, a city that has much in common with Stockton. Can Gabriel Flores work the same magic in his hometown? Arum is betting on it.
The aforementioned Mirigian also handles Ochoa. A 19-year-old product of Fresno’s Police Athletic League boxing program, Ochoa won 12 assorted titles as an amateur. He makes his pro debut as a lightweight in Fresno on Dec. 2 on a card headlined by Jose Ramirez who is matched against Brooklyn veteran Gabriel Bracero.
There is a statue in Fresno of Raffaele Giordano, the former world welterweight champion who adopted the ring name Young Corbett III. He has a long road to travel, but perhaps Isidro Ochoa will prove to be the next Fresno boxer deemed worthy of receiving this honor.
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