by Paul Magno
For those who dismiss the dangers of one promoter only working “in house” bouts between his own fighters, the perfect worst case scenario of such practices is currently playing out in the three high-profile weight classes from 140 lbs. to 154 lbs.
With Manny Pacquiao as the bait, Top Rank boss man, Bob Arum is setting out to seize control of the jr. welterweight, welterweight, and jr. middleweight divisions in a flat-out power grab that could put a choke hold on the sport and stop many of the key divisional fights from happening.
As soon as Arum saw Manny cross the line from boxing star to mainstream icon, the dollar signs had to flash before his eyes and the plan became clear as day.
A master of just about every con game out there, Arum took the easily-manipulated boxing media and a fresh, new, often gullible fan base brought in by Pacquiao’s sudden rise to the top of the food chain, and created an alternate boxing universe that leaves the grizzled veteran boxing fans of the world just shaking their heads in disbelief.
With Floyd Mayweather inactive and disinterested, Arum flaunted the fact that the only mega-payday out there is with his client. And, beyond flaunting, he actually used the Filipino sensation as a bargaining chip to act out his own plans to beat the boxing world into submission.
His first move was to dangle Pacquiao and a high-seven-figure pay check in front of Miguel Cotto in order to convince the Puerto Rican star to re-sign with Arum’s promotional company. It was widely rumored that Golden Boy had expressed interest in signing the former welterweight champion and that Cotto, peeved by Arum’s defense of Antonio Margarito in the hand wrapping scandal, was willing to entertain offers. But money talks, so Arum managed to re-sign Cotto and, in the process, book a marquee name on a steep decline as a bankable victim for his new superstar.
Arum also managed to pry two veteran names away from hated promotional rivals, Golden Boy, by offering Pacquiao bouts to both Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez, both veteran fighters knowing that the only road to Pacquiao leads through Top Rank Promotions.
Kermit Cintron was recently signed to Top Rank as potential cannon fodder for Manny and will likely get his money bout as soon as the Arum-controlled media begins their public relations push to make Cintron the next Tommy Hearns.
Most recently, jr. welterweight top dog, Timothy Bradley has been cooling his heels and is rumored to be waiting out the end of his current promotional deal with promoter Gary Shaw in June. It’s no secret that Bradley wants in on the Pacquiao sweepstakes and, as has already been established, the only way to get to Manny is through Arum. “Desert Storm” recently turned down an offer of $1.4 million and 50% of UK pay-per-view money to fight Amir Khan in July, but only because a possible Pacquiao bout could earn him seven times that amount.
Meanwhile, Arum sits back and rakes in the money, in a perpetual win-win situation.
These power grabs are nothing new in the nasty, mean-spirited world of big time professional boxing. Don King has made several attempts to corner the pugilistic market, from the successful middleweight tournament in 2001 to the failed plot to seize control of the entire US boxing scene in the 70’s. But Arum has perfected the move, managing to milk the situation for nearly three years and running now.
It’s no wonder why Arum, despite giving great lip service to the contrary, has never seriously pursued a re-visit to the Mayweather-Pacquiao talks that fell apart over random drug testing back in early 2010.
Why take a fight that is essentially a 50-50 proposition, both competitively and financially, when Arum can keep all the pie, take no risks, and keep playing the game for years to come? A Mayweather fight only makes sense as a last-resort money grab when all other sources of revenue have been exhausted and there’s nothing left to lose.
Until then, this is Bob Arum’s world and all those who want to live in it must play by his rules. Boxing be damned.