Arum and De La Hoya: The Fight Boxing Can Do Without
By: Sergio Martinez
At the Bradley-Pacquiao post-fight press conference, Top Rank supremo Bob Arum was livid about the decision rendered in the mega fight. His rant continued for days after the event in which he called for an investigation and was quoted by ESPN’s Senior Boxing Writer Dan Rafael as saying, “Something like this is so outlandish; it’s a death knell for the sport. This is f—— nuts.”
Top Rank has been at the forefront of boxing for many decades and Arum is responsible for some of the greatest contests the sport has ever known. Arum is a true fan of the sport and often comes across as having its best interests in mind. However, it is hard not to take exception to Arum’s contradictory actions.
Immediately after Julio Chavez Jr.’s demolition of Andy Lee, Arum, who came out so strong publicly on how boxing must be cleaned up for the sake of the sport and its loyal fans, scheduled the Sergio Martinez-Chavez Jr. mega-fight on the same date that his arch nemesis Golden Boy Promotions had a Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs Victor Ortiz fight already scheduled.
Although the Alvarez fight has since fallen from pay-per-view status, as Golden Boy is scrambling to find a new opponent following Ortiz’s loss to Josesito Lopez, Arum’s intentions are what are troubling: true fight fans were going to be placed in the predicament of having to make a choice and this would not have helped the sport or its loyal fans in any way.
It is no secret that Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions are bitter rivals, constantly attempting to outdo the other. The core of this dispute is rooted in betrayal and perceived disrespect. Not your everyday “you’ve offended me” disrespect, but the kind equivalent to a son betraying his father. For anyone who has ever dealt with this type of transgression, or known anyone who has, knows it often leads to hatred that can never be pacified.
It was Arum who built the “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya into a bona fide brand that transcended boxing into mainstream pop culture. One can argue that De La Hoya would be a star with or without Arum, but no one can deny that Arum was the most powerful boxing promoter operating in 1992, and he utilized all of his resources to ensure that De La Hoya lived up to his marketing potential. Without that, it is truly hard to gauge how far De La Hoya would have gone in terms of popularity.
When the inevitable occurred in which De La Hoya went from megastar boxer/celebrity to top boxing promoter in a single bound, due to the contacts and the massive empire built with the help of his former advocate now competitor, it was quite predictable that Arum would take this as a public insult and humiliation. This banality led to disdain which manifested into an ongoing effort by both parties to destroy the other. This promotional cannibalization has only driven ticket prices higher, and fights the fans deserve to see made have been lost.
This is not to place sole blame on Arum’s Top Rank, as everyone is clearly aware that De La Hoya and his promotional company have contributed to this feud and kept it alive by agitating, publicly insulting and goading Arum. Although it is easy to understand why Arum holds a grudge, the benefit to the boxing public should outweigh any personal disputes if he is true about cleaning up boxing and doing what is right for the sake of the sport and its loyal fans. It takes two to tango and both Arum and De La Hoya appear to be more willing to be hit over the head with a sledge hammer than call a truce for the betterment of the sport.
There is not one fighter or company that owns a particular fight date, but it should be the responsibility of the most powerful promoters in the sport to make decisions in the best interest of the boxing populace and to not conspire against each other due to some vendetta.
The original intent of having two pay-per-view fight cards on Mexico’s Independence Day weekend featuring the two most popular Mexican fighters not fighting each other was not a win-win situation for the fans. I know that I had made reference to Mexican Boxing’s Game of Thrones in a previous article on Boxing Insider, but this is not the way to pit both boxers against each other. As Arum put it, “This is f—— nuts.”
Ultimately, the fans were going to be the ones who would have shelled out hard-earned dollars in order to be able to view their favorite combatants in action. By attempting to outdo each other, Arum and De La Hoya were going to hold the fans to ransom and force them to either pay in excess of $140.00 on the same night or have to choose one fight over the other.
This just does not seem to be in the best interest of the sport or its loyal fans. Also, having the most two powerful promoters actively attempting to put the other out of business cannot be good for growth and the future of boxing. There are more than enough fighters, fans and money to go around as long as the best possible fights are being made. That will not happen if the two top-ranking companies that own the rights to the most popular fighters are not willing to compromise for the sake of doing what is right for everyone involved.
In the end, it was decided that Alvarez’s fight will be televised on the Showtime network and not pay-per-view due to the opponent issues. It is likely that Arum will claim victory over De La Hoya because of this, which will just add more fuel to the fire. This is not the first nor will it be the last time that fight fans will be inadvertently held to ransom as Golden Boy Promotion is sure to retaliate in the near future.
It would be easier and in the best interest of boxing if both men just settled their difference by making a fight between Canelo and Chavez Jr. At least then, we would all benefit from the feud.
Contact Sergio Martinez at [email protected]