By Jake Donovan
Bob Arum has been in the boxing game for more than 40 years, but can probably still quickly count the number of class acts he has come across over that time.
This weekend, the Hall of Fame promoter considers himself blessed to come up with two in the headlining act alone when Manny Pacquiao squares off against unbeaten Tim Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. HBO PPV will televise the event, which airs live on Saturday at 9PM ET/6PM PT.
Cameras have been following around both fighters and their respective camps for the past several weeks, as has been reflected on HBO’s award winning ‘24/7’ reality series. The show has come a long way since its inception more than five years ago, when it was spawned to hype up the record-breaking battle between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya.
The majority of 24/7 series have focused on Mayweather Jr. and Pacquaio through the years. Such exclusive focus comes with its drawbacks, as there has reached an industry-wide cry that the series has grown stale.
The four-episode block for Pacquiao’s third showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez last November produced a great deal of feedback that was either negative or that of disinterest. There wasn’t much to get excited about in the footage provided for Mayweather’s eventual points win over Miguel Cotto, despite the fact that Cotto managed to wow audiences in a condensed version of the series prior to his rematch with over Antonio Margarito last December.
A breath of fresh air has come along in the latest installment, thanks to Bradley’s charisma and his story being brand new to many beyond the sport’s hardcore base.
What is appreciated most of all by Top Rank is the fact that most of the coverage can air without being heavily censored once shown outside of the various HBO channels.
“I think this has been one of the best 24/7s that I’ve ever seen,” Arum insists, though qualifying his comments beyond the standard promotional hyperbole. “It demonstrates that you can have great, interesting and compelling television without having a whole slew of foul-mouth language.
“You don’t have to sell with all of that vulgarity. You can sell with decency and you can sell with developing other aspects of these two fine men and the public has taken to that.”
The veteran promoter was appreciative of both fighters during Wednesday’s press conference in Las Vegas to hype up the big event this weekend. Naturally, there exists a soft sport in his heart for Pacquiao, who has fought exclusively under the Top Rank banner since 2006.
“It’s amazing to me that the sport of boxing has produced a man who is a worldwide icon,” Arum said of Pacquiao. People around the world know the name Manny Pacquiao. No matter where you go, the one athlete that is universally recognized is Manny Pacquiao. He has had such an impact not only on boxing, but to fans all around the world.
“I promoted 25 fights of Muhammad Ali. He had as much as Manny Pacquiao. Ali meant more to boxing than anyone else. Manny Pacquiao now means more to boxing than any other participant.”
Bradley has a long way to go before soaring to such heights, if ever at all. A win over Pacquiao would certainly serve as a huge boost in the right direction, though the unbeaten Californian has already left his mark among the general public over the course of the past several months.
The extra attention paid to his career began with his signing on the dotted line earlier this year to face Pacquiao. Being in contention for such a fight was why the 140 lb. titlist signed with Top Rank to begin with, even though it meant waiting out legal matters while sitting out for most of 2011.
In the end, Bradley was pleased with the final outcome and Top Rank is content with its investment.
“If only all athletes can be like him, all sports would be at the pinnacle of its true potential,” Arum said of Bradley before introducing him to the crowd.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments via e-mail.