By Jake Donovan
Bob Arum continues to defend the product put out as the supporting portion of the April 12 pay-per-view event, which is headlined by the welterweight title fight rematch between Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao. From the moment the televised undercard was announced, the Hall of Fame promoter was the subject of swift criticism from media members and fans alike, through blogs and social media outlets.
The three preliminary bouts supporting the HBO PPV headliner, which airs live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, are: Raymundo Beltran versus former 130 lb. titlist Rocky Martinez, in a scheduled 12-round lightweight title elimination bout; Khabib Allakhverdiev versus Jessie Vargas, a pairing of unbeatens fighting for Allakhverdiev’s 140 lb. title; and Jose Felix versus Bryan Vasquez, in a scheduled 12-round bout in the super featherweight division.
The line-up isn’t exactly murderer’s row, and Arum didn’t help matters any when insisting in a recent interview with Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, that “the truth is – and I've been doing this a long, long time – 90 percent of the people don't want to see the undercard and don't care about it.”
Wherever those among the suggested 90 percent are to be found, they’ve yet to stand up and agree with the 82-year old promoter. Instead, the loudest voices have all come from the presumed 10 percent who choose to take in all that the sport has to offer.
Ever the carnival barker, Arum was wise to recognize which audience to acknowledge during the first leg of the two-city press tour to promote the April 12 event. The promoter of more than four decades didn’t particularly change his stance on what is being presented, rather speak to the efforts put forth in making the fights.
For the 10% who watch the undercard - you are the boxing fans who watch all of the fights,” Arum acknowledged during Tuesday’s press conference in Beverly Hills. “Through the tremendous efforts of matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman, we have set up a spectacular undercard of entertaining fights.”
The aforementioned lineup hasn’t been favorably received by those who have so far commented on the subject. However, there exists a faction of fans genuinely looking forward to the bouts being featured on the April 12 event. While most of the focus was rightfully placed on Bradley and Pacquiao, one of the loudest ovations of the sessions came when Arum began to repeat the undercard lineup.
“Ray Beltran will meet Rocky Martinez in a 135 lb. title eliminator,” Arum announced, briefly interrupted by a raucous cheer for Beltran, the current top lightweight contender who enjoys a favorable cult following in California, where he trains. “The winner will go on to fight for the title later in the year.”
Beltran received tremendous fan and media support following his controversial 12-round draw with lightweight titlist Ricky Burns last September. Many had the battle-tested Mexican veteran winning by a considerable margin, with next to nobody outside of Burns’ camp believing the Scot deserved to retain his title.
A win over Martinez, a recently dethroned 130 lb. titlist, will put him right back in the running for that very title. The winner of their pay-per-view chief support will go on to face the winner of the forthcoming March 1 title fight between Burns and mandatory challenger, unbeaten Terence Crawford.
Regardless of the stakes, the bout is believed by Top Rank to be enjoyable ring action, a fair assessment given the all-action style of both fighters. Arguments exist in either direction for the other two bouts on the televised undercard, though the event’s handlers hope those who buy tickets will be willing to judge for themselves.
“I encourage all to show up early because you will be entertained by the entire card,” Arum insists.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox