He’s 85 years old and he still brings the enthusiasm fastball with him wherever he goes.
This week, Las Vegas-based promoter Bob Arum touched base with TALKBOX, and talked about the stars in his stable, and yes, matters outside the squared circle.
He seemed most enthused when referring to the Dec. 9 Top Rank card set to unfold in NY, at the Madison Square Garden Theater. He called the event, pitting two Olympic gold medallists and standout pros, Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux, against each other, “historic.”
He noted that fewer than 100 tickets remain, a bullish response from the public, which will fill the 5,000 seat venue.
Rigondeaux, in fact, fought for Top Rank for a long spell. In 2010, he signed on with the Vegas company and his visibility popped massively after a contract extension, when he downed pound for pound ace Nonito Donaire in their April 2013 tango. But his monetum stalled after beating Donaire. In a December 2013 story, Rick Reeno quoted Arum as saying, “Every time I mention him, (HBO executives) throw up.” After Rigo bested Donaire, Arum said, “It was not a very engaging fight. If Rigondeaux would stand and fight, he has a lot of power and a lot of skills, but running the way he does really makes it not a watchable fight.”
Yes, this was his promoter, out of promoter mode, voicing frustration that a man of undeniable skills wasn’t using a more “fan friendly style.”
After Agbeko, Rigo was hidden on a Macau card, and then his deal with Top Rank expired. They didn’t re-sign him, and Arum has now and again publicly taken a slap at the Cuban. Now, with Arum it can feel like it’s personal. That’s because for him, business is personal, it is deep in his DNA. He cares passionately and sometimes that passion can appear to drift into territory that can be interpreted as personal. I posed the question to Arum—does he not like Rigo? Did his frustration with a talent level unfulfilled, in his eyes, leave him having some dislike for the Cuban?
“Do you like him do you not like him?” I asked.
“He is a nice kid,” Arum answered. “I like him very much. The problem is, he was trained in Cuba. And he is a product of the Cuban boxing system. What does that mean? It means, you watch them in the amateurs, they would go out in the first two rounds and beat the hell out of their opponents. They would coast in the third round and they wouldn’t throw a punch in the fourth round, because they knew they had won the fight. That’s how they’re trained. If you’re winning the fight, you play defense, almost like a football team. If you go up by two touchdowns, you don’t take any chances and you run the ball. It makes sense. But boxing isn’t like that, people want to be entertained.” Loma, also deeply grounded in an amateur system, is different, Arum said, because he builds up to a crescendo. “He is looking to destroy the guy, make him quit or destroy him. That’s what makes him the exciting fighter he is. Rigo is looking just to win. Difference.”
Noted. And to reiterate, Arum’s manner can be Brooklyn brusque. He can be prickly but as with a cactus, he isn’t acting with ill intent.