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Happy Birthday Bob Arum (In Depth Interview)
Bob Arum answers a few birthday questions
Hall of Fame boxing promoter Bob Arum turns 80 today.
USA TODAY's Bob Velin interviewed the man who saw his first fight when he promoted one.
Now a veteran of 11,000 fights, Arum's Top Rank company has been involved with Ali-Frazier, Hagler-Leonard and he hopes Pacquiao-Mayweather.
Arum's career in boxing has spanned 45 years.
What has been your greatest moment in your 40-plus years in boxing?
Two really come to mind. One is when George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to win the heavyweight title. That was spectacular considering when Foreman came to me he was like a joke. To build him up and get him in that fight, and the organizations didn't want to approve the fight because they said he was too old. We finally got that fight on and he's losing every round, but he's moving more and more into the danger zone of that right hand. Finally he clocks Moorer and wins the title. The other that comes to mind is when Manny Pacquiao, who everybody said had no chance against Oscar De La Hoya, won every minute of every round before he stopped De La Hoya. Those two are very, very significant to me.
Who was the greatest fighter you've ever been associated with?
It was a combination -- Muhammad Ali, but the Ali that I promoted in 1966-67, before he evaded the draft and laid off for three and a half years. When he came back he was still a wonderful fighter, but he wasn't as great as he was before. He had lost speed and reflexes. Now he was more of a stationary fighter. The first Ali was the most incredible fighter I've ever seen. The second is Manny Pacquiao. Because Pacquiao was a gutty kid and he always finds a way to win. Close behind are favorites of mine like Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was an incredible fighter, a tremendously loyal guy, I really enjoyed promoting him. Alexis Arguello was another great, great fighter, completely underrated, but as far as a technician, just brilliant. I hesitate to leave out (Roberto) Duran. The thrills that we got from crazy Duran. He was unbelievable, particularly his comeback fights when he beat Pipino Cuevas, and knocked out Davey Moore in the Garden. Then fought toe-to-toe with Hagler before losing a close decision. Duran was absolutely incredible. Then he went on to win the middleweight title a number of years later against (Iran) Barkley. Unbelievable talent.
Do you still keep in touch with those fighters?
Yeah, I keep in touch with all of them. I keep in touch with Ali, our wives are very close. Ali can't talk, but when he sees me he brightens up. Then we find a way to communicate. Obviously over the telephone, we can't talk, but we communicate through Lonnie. His recent hospitalization was really nothing. That was a scare that everyone had. People were putting on the wires that he was dying, but he had been in the hospital a month before. With his condition, he's got to remain hydrated. He was dehydrated. His mind is still very sharp. But this Parkinson's just keeps going and going. When Ali was in Las Vegas for his birthday, we have the leading brain institute in the world (the Cleveland Clinic). We took Ali and Lonnie down to see the facility. They're doing the Ali 70th birthday party in Las Vegas and (wife) Lovee and I are working hard on bringing in all the great fighters."
So what is the greatest fight you've ever seen?
Again, there are two because they're different. One was the Hagler-Hearns fight, which was three rounds of unbelievable action. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. And the other one was the Thrilla in Manila. Ali and Frazier. That fight was simply incredible. Those are the two best fights.
Have you ever had any great regrets during your career?
No regrets. Everything can't go 100% your way. Looking over my entire career, I'm very, very satisfied with how it's progressed and how it's come out. Even the greatest baseball pitcher gets knocked out of the box every once in a while. Overall, You can always say, well, if I would've done this it would've been better, which is probably true. But so what? I did the best I could and by and large it came out well and I'm satisfied. The smartest thing I ever did is to realize my own limitations. As you get up in age, no matter how smart you are, or think you are, you can't keep up with new, young innovations. At Top Rank, we've been able to remain cutting edge by becoming a very young company. That sounds strange for a guy who's becoming 80. (Stepson) Todd (duBoef, Top Rank's president) does so much of the work, we've got (matchmaker Carl) Moretti, Brad Jacobs, Bruce (Trampler), and we've got even younger people in the Tweet room, and the social network room. We remained cutting edge only because I saw my own limitations. As people get older, they tend not to be as effective. Not because they lose brain power, but you tend to do things the old way, the things that worked, and you don't realize until it's too late that those same things don't work anymore. You have to take advantage of newer technology and new ways to connect with the customers."
How did you come up with the name Top Rank?
When we organized Top Rank, it was myself and Fred Hofheinz, whose father, Roy, owned the Astrodome. Fred was my equal partner. Then when Fred was elected mayor of Houston, he sold back his stock in the company, mainly because he felt it was inappropriate as the mayor of a big city to own stock in a boxing promotion company. Fred's wife, Mack, named the company. Then we had a problem we didn't contemplate, because there was an English company called The Rank organization, the movie company that rang the big gong before their pictures. They sent us a threatening letter, but fortunately the law firm that I was with, Louis Nizer, represented The Rank company. They worked out a deal where we agreed we would never go into the movie business. Who would've believed after all these years that that big organization no longer exists, and little old Top Rank is still going."
Where do you get your amazing energy from?
Having a lot of energy is a product of genes. For me, having this energy and working with this energy is normal. I'm not forcing myself. If you force yourself, then you're going to end up tired and you're going to have to take a break. I don't experience that, and the only thing I can attribute it to is my genes, because for me, to operate at a high volume of energy is not abnormal."
How long do you hope to keep working?
Until I'm no longer effective, or they carry me out. Why would I ever stop if I don't have to? Why, because I'm older? No. Being older or getting old, as long as I realize my limitations, I can still be effective.
If you could make once change in the sport of boxing, what would it be?
The one thing that's really hurt the sport is having so many so-called world titles in the same divisions. I don't mind having many divisions. But If I could change anything, it would be one champion in every division. Universally recognized. None of the nonsense with interim champions, silver belts, copper belts. All that does is hurt the brand.
Do you think boxing needs a central governing body?
I think it does need a central governing body. And secondly, it needs more promoters to follow our lead. And when they present cards, present them in an entertaining manner. You should not do a boxing card without having a DJ, with uptempo music, you need lights, you need drama, like Cotto-Margarito. That stirs up the crowd. One thing you can't do as a promoter is guarantee how the fight will play out. Sometimes they play out better than you hope, sometimes not as well. Once that promoter makes the fight, he has no control over it. What you do have control over is the experience you give the fans. By spending money, by being innovative, you can give the fans a tremendous experience no matter how the fight actually turns out. That's what we've been endeavoring to do. You see in our fights that the lighting is special, everything is special. For instance, the fans that left the Mosley-Pacquiao fight, which was a pretty terrible fight because Mosley stopped fighting, said what an amazing experience they had, because of all the stuff surrounding the fights. . . . Making good undercards, that's the easy part. Now that's extremely important in the east, because you don't start the card until 9 o'clock and at 9 everybody is in their seats. So you want to give them great fights. When you do the fights in Las Vegas, you have to start the fights at 6 p.m. and the people don't start coming in till 8 o'clock. Even though the television audience is seeing good fights, it doesn't have the same energy because you don't have people in the buildings. So many of those seats are bought by the casinos for their customers, and the casinos want to keep them gambling until the last possible moment."
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What has been your favorite place to stage a fight?
For me, there's spectacular places -- the Loftus, the rugby stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, for 82,000 people was a spectacular venue. Yankee Stadium, spectacular; Cowboys Stadium, over-the-top great venue; those are unique venues. . . . As far as the arenas are concerned, there are two places. One, the old Caesars, where we had Hagler-Leonard, Hagler-Hearns, that stadium that was built around the tennis courts, with the moon, the stars, that was spectacular. And of course, Madison Square Garden. For me, the mecca of everything was Madison Square Garden, from the time I was a kid going to basketball games at the old Garden. The first fight Top Rank did was December 7, 1970, Ali-Bonavena. That's 41 years ago today.
I understand you were recently presented a Knicks jersey by the team?
Yup. No 80, for my 80th birthday. Obviously I'm living in Nevada now, but the teams I root for are, in baseball, the Yankees, in football the Giants, and basketball the Knicks. I'm still a New Yorker. You can never change that.
Will the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight ever get made?
I'll tell you the truth. My guy (Pacquiao) wants that fight. He really wants that fight. I want that fight. And I want it to happen next. I believe Floyd wants that fight to happen. Now how it happens, how we go about doing it, that's a little difficult. The difference in personalities between Manny and Floyd is just tremendous. Hopefully, we'll be able before the new year to bridge that gap and make that fight happen. For me, frankly, it was not a task I was looking forward to. And I think there's an example where Todd, who's a lot nearer their ages, and a lot calmer than me, will play a major role.
Would that be the biggest fight of all time?
A: It certainly will be but you have to remember, when people say it the biggest fight, what does that mean? Is it taking in the most money? Yeah. And why? For me the biggest fight of all time was the first Ali-Frazier fight in the Garden. We were in the closed circuit era, we were limited because there were no satellites, so the transmission was by telephone company land lines. So we were limited to 400 locations. Now we have satellites, both domestic and international. And the domestic satellites alone reach 90 million homes that can buy the fight. So sure, a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight will generate more income than a fight back in 1971. We had 400 locations and the top price was $25. But believe me, it would have to go a long, long way to be a bigger fight than Ali-Frazier I, when the whole world stopped.
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F-ck you you old piece of sh1t. I hope you never find your teeth when get up in the morning.
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