By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Bob Arum couldn’t contain his enthusiasm Thursday.
The card headlined by the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch officially became a sellout Thursday morning, marking the first time since Cotto beat Zab Judah in June 2007 that a boxing card sold out Madison Square Garden’s main arena. It also provided Arum ammunition to use against the sport’s skeptics.
“There is talk so often that boxing is dying and boxing is dead,” Arum said during a press conference at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill to promote Saturday’s undercard. “And that talk is crazy, because boxing has never, ever been stronger than it is now. Look at our experience. Our experience, look what’s happening in Mexico, Germany and various other places.”
The refurbished Garden is set to accommodate 17,943 fans Saturday night, which produced a live gate in excess of $3 million. Three weeks ago, a capacity crowd of 15,498 attended the third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, accounting for a live gate of about $11.6 million.
“[On] Nov. 12, Pacquiao and Marquez completely sold out,” said Arum, whose company, Top Rank Inc., promotes Margarito, Cotto and numerous undercard fighters. “Not one seat remaining. And then, prior to that we had Nonito Donaire fighting at The Theater in Madison Square Garden, a virtual sellout. After the Pacquiao fight, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fought in Reliant Arena in Houston and it was this close to a sellout.
“And now we’re here in ‘The Big Apple,’ Madison Square Garden, where people understand sports and follow sports and they’re just not going to buy tickets unless you give them value, and it’s a complete sellout two days before the event. So don’t tell me that boxing is dead. Boxing is not dead. Boxing is very strong. People want to see good fights, they want excitement, they want entertainment and boxing is providing it. And for these young men up here [the undercard fighters], I want them to realize that the future of the sport is very, very strong.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.