By Ronnie Nathanielsz
An elated Bob Arum, the Top Rank promoter who was one of the very few people who predicted that pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao would win against his formidable opponent Roy Chiongbian in the lone congressional district of Sarangani “by a landslide, ”prepared to leave for Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon with a wide “I told you so” grin across his face.
We met Arum on his arrival from General Santos City at noon along with ABS-CBN vice president for Sports Peter Musngi and reporter Dyan Castillejo and spoke to him at the nearby Marriot Hotel.
Arum said “winning this election for me, and certainly for Manny, is the greater thrill than any fight. It reminded me completely of the Oscar De La Hoya fight when everybody before the fight said it is a mismatch and De La Hoya is going to kill him. And it was a mismatch but it was a mismatch the other way because Manny destroyed De La Hoya.”
Arum noted that in the congressional election people said Pacquiao “can’t beat this guy (Chiongbian), the family has been in control for 25 years. It’s a real mismatch and Manny was going to lose the election by a landslide. They were right, it was a landslide but the other way. Just like the De La Hoya fight.”
The astute Top Rank promoter who flew to GenSan on Thursday following his arrival from Las Vegas that morning said “Manny was talking to me about a landslide. He really believed he would win by a landslide. That’s the way he believed he would shut De La Hoya up. He convinced me.”
Arum recalled that after he attended rallies in Kiamba and another municipality he felt that Pacquiao “had the situation under control and he was going to win. A landslide I never expected. Every single precint including the precint where his opponent has a plantation, Manny didn’t lose in one precint.”
Asked what it meant to him and why he appeared so excited Arum replied “I really love the kid. He is such a wonderful, wonderful person and I know how much he wants this and because he wanted this so much I wanted it for him.”
Arum revealed that after they saw the initial results and Pacquiao knew he would win, he said to me “Bob, I’m so proud of myself for what I’ve done.” To Arum “that was a wonderful, emotional thing for him to say.”
Arum quickly dismissed speculations that with his congressional victory Pacquiao wouldn’t fight again saying “of course he’s going to fight and I always knew he was going to fight and I’m off back to the states and I’m gonna be working very, very hard to make the (Floyd) Mayweather Jr fight because that’s the fight everybody wants to see.”
“If we can’t make that then there are other fights like (Antonio) Margarito and the winner of the Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman but absolutely everybody wants to see the Mayweather fight, the congressman wants the Mayweather fight and we are going to get it for him” added Arum.
Arum disclosed that a November 13 is the date when Pacquiao will fight again. He said “I have reserved the date and both the Dallas Cowboys Stadium and MGM Grand in Las Vegas are available . The cable systems and the satellite providers have put the date aside for us, so the table is set. Manny can get sworn in at the end of June, then attend the sessions of Congress in July and as long as he keeps in shape and then he has plenty of time to train for the fight.”
Arum indicated that “for the first part of his training Manny may want to train in Baguio City which worked out nicely for the Cotto fight or at the Wild Card. There are a lot of options open..”
While people at HBO and in the Top Rank offices and everybody he had spoken to was thrilled, Arum didn’t think Mayweather would react the same way pointing out that Mayweather “doesn’t appreciate I think, this type of achievement because its so far out of his trend of thought and his reach.”
Arum also told us he believes that being a congressman won’t be a distraction but rather “a psychological boost because he will find that he will now do more productive things when he’s not training and that will make him a better a fighter and a more dedicated person. I think this is a real plus and the confidence that it will give him to have this lifelong dream of being identified as a congressman when he’s introduced at press conferences and in the ring, is something spectacular.”
Arum said that while in Sarangani he said to himself “people would have to be nuts not to vote for him because the whole world will now know this province and the Philippines even better. This is a world-wide story. He is going to be more of a celebrity now than he was before.”