By Robert Morales
Miguel Cotto, for the first time in his pro career, will not be fighting under the Top Rank Inc. banner when he defends his junior middleweight title against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight was announced Wednesday by Mayweather when he was granted a one-fight conditional license by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
For those thinking Cotto's longtime promoter, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, is peeved at Cotto for taking a fight that won't include him, think again.
"No, no, I know where you're going with this," Arum said as the question was being asked. "Miguel lived up to every contractual provision that we had and we lived up to every contractual provision and the contract expired. There is no animosity. We're very fond of him."
Arum was told that it was big of him to say that.
"It's not big of me to say that," he said. "If the guy had violated a contract, I wouldn't be sounding like this. But he didn't."
With Mayweather and Cotto now completely out of the running for Manny Pacquiao's next fight, Arum was asked if it can be said that Timothy Bradley is now the front-runner to take on Pacquiao on June 9.
"Well, you can say what you want, but no deal has been made yet," he said.
And no announcement will be made until next week.
"We're not going to announce anything this week, that is crazy, with the Super Bowl and everything," Arum said. "I'm going to announce who Manny is going to fight at the G iants' victory party."
Arum is a big fan of the New York G iants, who will take on the New England P atriots in Sunday's Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
New Sheriff in Town
Ken Hershman might feel like President Barack Obama did when he took office three years ago. Obama was left with quite a mess to clean up and so, it seems, was Hershman.
But the new president of HBO Sports on Tuesday scoffed at that notion. In his mind, there is nothing in this sport that needs a deep cleaning.
"I guess I take issue with the premise of the question because I really believe that boxing is healthy," said Hershman, when asked what ails boxing and what can be done about it.
"From what I see in terms of the ratings on HBO, in terms of the number of fights, the fighters that we have that make for exciting television and all of the things that we have on our plate that we can't possibly accommodate everything - all the things we would really want to do - boxing, from my perspective, seems really healthy and thriving.
"I don't really agree with the premise that there is something wrong. Now, one individual fight that can't be made or the proliferation of titles, which I know everyone seems to have an issue with, those things can be addressed individually. But overall I think the health of the sport globally is fantastic and here in the U.S. is very strong and a lot of upside."
Output deals - No Mas?
Hershman, speaking via telephone from New York City, was asked to address many different subjects. For example, he was asked about the output deal HBO had with Golden Boy Promotions that recently came to a close.
Basically, Golden Boy was given several premium dates without having to tell HBO who would fight on them. It was up to Golden Boy to provide the talent, and that led to rival promoters intimating HBO was pushing fighters toward Golden Boy so the network would have the best fights. Feathers were ruffled.
Hershman was asked if he can see himself making another deal like that with any promoter. At the moment, that answer would seem to be negative.
"I think in my experience output deals are not necessarily the strategy that gives you the most flexibility," said Hershman, who left his job as Showtime's executive vice president and general manager of sports & event programming to take the HBO gig. "I understand there may be appropriate times to do that under the appropriate circumstances. But it's not something I'm looking to do at the moment here. We want to keep our options open.
"We want to work with the best promoters and the best fighters and we know that if we're open and transparent with them as to what our objectives are and they're open and transparent with us as to theirs, there will be plenty of business, plenty of activity to make everybody comfortable. This is a good place to be and we think the best place to be and we look forward to doing business with as many as we can."
Pacquiao-Mayweather: If it Happens, Fine, if Not ...
Since HBO will likely distribute Mayweather-Pacquiao should that fight ever come to fruition, it was interesting to hear Hershman's thoughts on it. In particular, he was asked if he believes the fight not yet being made is angering fans who are tired of all the garbage that has gone along with failed negotiations.
"I don't know if it is or it isn't," he said. "I know that with each guy there are a lot of really compelling fights that we can make and that we're going to make. What drives their business is up to them. I want to see Floyd Mayweather fight Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez or Amir Khan. There are a ton of fights, the list goes on and on and on. There is the same list for Manny, fights I'd like to see.
"As a fan I'd love to see Mayweather and Pacquiao, of course. But I don't think it's going to define anything or change anything if it happens or it doesn't happen."
When Mayweather announced he will take on Cotto on pay-per-view, a carrier had not been identified.
Heavyweight Picture: Up To The Americans
Vitali Klitschko will defend his heavyweight title against Dereck Chisora in February and Wladimir Klitschko will defend his three heavyweight titles against Jean-Marc Mormeck in March. Not only do their opponents carry zero weight in America, both fights are going to be contested in Germany and will be televised by something called Epix.
This is not good, and that is not lost on Hershman.
"The heavyweight division is a bit of a dilemma at the moment," Hershman said.
"Everything is cyclical, so I suspect it will change. But the Klitschkos are tremendous fighters, tremendous people, tremendous champions and they have a business model that works for them and that is over in Germany, where it works really well.
"And I understand why they do what they do. It's in their best interests and I respect that."
It's another element of the sad overall state of what used to be boxing's bread-and-butter division. The way Hershman sees it, that may not change until the Klitschkos retire and some American heavyweights step up to the plate.
"The hope for us is that some of the young American heavyweights coming up through the pipeline can take the mantle back," he said. "... Hopefully, there are some Americans that can take that and then we can be in that business because as the heavyweights go, it's an important category for boxing here in the United States."
Arum Likes Progress of Chavez Jr.
Freddie Roach began training Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for his fight with John Duddy in June 2010. The results have been good. Chavez went from being a fighter many thought would never really amount to anything, to a middleweight world champion under Roach's guidance.
Not that Chavez (44-0-1, 31 KOs) has fought the best the world has to offer, but in his third fight with Roach he did win his world championship with a majority decision over Sebastian Zbik. Chavez then made his only title defense with a fifth-round TKO of Peter Manfredo Jr., who really did not deserve a shot at the title because he's just not that good.
In other words, the jury is still kind of out on the 25-year-old Chavez. But his promoter, Arum, likes what he has seen since Roach began training him out of his Wild Card gym in Hollywood.
"I think he is becoming a real fighter," Arum said of Chavez, who Saturday will defend his belt against fellow Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio (53-5-1, 46 KOs) at the Alamodome in San Antonio (on HBO). "He is moving his head, he's fighting well in the center of the ring, fighting well on the ropes. He has a defense which he didn't have before and the punches that he has been throwing have a lot more effect."
Donaire ready for move to 122 pounds
The main undercard fight on Saturday's event at the Alamodome will feature Nonito Donaire moving up in weight to take on Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (21-1-1, 18 KOs) for a vacant super bantamweight world title. Donaire (27-1, 18 KOs) has already won titles in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions as well as in interim belt in the super flyweight class.
Donaire, speaking Wednesday via telephone from San Antonio, sounded almost relieved that he doesn't have to try and make 118 pounds (bantamweight) any longer.
"It's great, it feels normal for me right now," he said. "I'm not cutting down anything right now, so I'm a lot healthier and my body is doing well. I won't have to tire myself out anymore because I don't have to cut the weight."
Donaire's trainer, Robert Garcia, also spoke in comforted tones.
"He has no weight problems anymore," Garcia said. "He is training to beat Vazquez and not to make weight. That is the best thing that could have happened."
As for the fight itself, Donaire said he knows beating Vazquez won't be easy.
"We're fighting a bigger guy, but we're ready for anything, really," Donaire said. "We just need to figure out how powerful I can be in this weight class and how we are able to go from there. The kid's tough, and he's not a former world champion for nothing. And, I'm moving up in weight."
Robert Morales covers boxing for the LA Daily News and BoxingScene.com.