By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Forget Willy Loman.
And while you’re at it… forget Billy Mays, Dale Carnegie and that old guy who mentored Tom Cruise’s character in Jerry Maguire.
In fact, you can go ahead and forget every great salesman you’d ever thought you’d known from movies, literature and late-night infomercial TV.
Because Bob Arum’s got ’em all beat.
I went ahead and labeled the long-time Top Rank consigliere a “genius” in a pre-fight tweet last week, back when I thought his master stroke was merely selling a slap-hitting 140-pounder without a relevant division win as a worthwhile contender for a welterweight title.
The idea that Tim Bradley – with exactly 12 KOs in 28 pro fights – would put up anything more than token resistance to a rampaging pound-for-pounder who’d not lost in seven years seemed patently ridiculous, but Arum showed his chops in the number of savvy media pros he’d gotten to buy in.
Scribes like ESPN’s Dan Rafael and Sports Illustrated’s Richard O’Brien – along with two editors from this very website – went public with their displays of “Desert Storm” affection, building a case for the challenger with items conveniently supplied in Arum’s “Tim really thinks he can do it, honest” press kit.
I was set to erect a Canastota statue for that snow-job alone, not yet knowing what else was in store.
As it turned out, after 36 minutes of sporadic action and a few extra seconds of mind-numbing math, the promoter’s dubious “One-Day Only” bargain had become something far more onerous.
“Buy One/Get Three.”
Whether you wanted them or not.
Yes, instead of simply pulling in $55 from each pay-per-view pigeon lured in from February to June, ol’ Bob now gets to turn a fight that most scored at least 9-3 or 8-4 for the favorite and stoke the fires for a second bout in 150 days that’s likely to garner twice the attention – and twice the revenue.
And if past is once again precedent – look no further than Pac-Morales III and Pac-Marquez III for details – that rematch will simply have to be augmented by a score-settling, bank-busting and Arum-approved third go-round sometime in 2013.
It’s but the latest slice of proof that Arum has not only mastered the vital steps to sales success – 1) create urgency; 2) overcome objections; and 3) always be closing – but he’s managed to do so while retaining the chutzpah to sneer in the face of a hypnotized buying public.
He worked the “Who won?” debate with alacrity in a slack-jawed Vegas aftermath, alternating a beaming grin and back slap in Bradley’s corner with subsequent disbelief over the two non-Pac scorecards, then topping it off with remarkably blatant puppet-master condescension.
“I'll make a lot of money off the rematch,” he said, “but this was outrageous.”
He even managed to sound magnanimous while fueling intrigue on Sunday, nobly calling for an attorney general’s probe before he’d sign off on any rematch – while leaving just enough grey area in what that actually meant to render it, in practical terms, meaningless.
“I want to investigate whether there was any undue influence, whether the (commission) gave any particular instruction (to the judges),” he said.
“If this was a subjective view that each of (the judges) honestly held, OK. I would still disagree, but then we're off the hook in terms of there being no conspiracy.”
By the time the promoter-speak is translated, the checks will be deposited.
And whenever the nebulous hurdle is cleared, it’ll instantly be “Happy Hour” for another round of snake oil, even though the paying customers in this case have already had one too many.
In its proper role as a sober arbiter, the media would nullify Saturday’s verdict by settling for nothing other than Pacquiao’s next logical fight – forcing Arum’s hand to act less for his own fiscal bottom line and more in the interest of a foundering sport and its beaten-down fans.
Perhaps against a guy who’s now a guest of the state… but ought to have free time come November.
Instead, it’s much more likely that a story-starved bunch – still loopy from a springtime spent interpreting Filipino religious moves and inventing ways to make a pedestrian American seem threatening – will again simply belly up to the bar and chug down the swill that’s offered until the bouncers intervene.
Setting up yet another cotton-mouthed Sunday morning.
And yet another unnecessary walk of shame.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO welterweight title – Kempton Park, South Africa
Chris van Heerden (champion) vs. Sebastian Lujan (No. 21 contender)
Van Heerden (17-1-1, 10 KO): First title defense; Lost only career fight outside South Africa
Lujan (39-6-2, 24 KO): Fourth title fight (0-2-1); Lost WBO title fight at 147 in 2005 (17-4-1, 13 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Lujan’s rebuilt his career with resume-padding wins, but it looks from here like the South African is ready to take a defining step over the long-term gatekeeper.” Van Heerden by decision
WBC middleweight title – El Paso, Texas
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (champion) vs. Andy Lee (No. 3 contender)
Chavez (45-0-1, 31 KO): Third title defense; Twelfth fight in Texas (11-0, 7 KO)
Lee (28-1, 20 KO): First title fight; Twentieth fight in United States (18-1, 13 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Chavez continues a dominant clear-out of second-tier middleweights while taking a step closer to a meeting with the division’s consensus top man – Sergio Martinez.” Chavez in 9
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 1-2
Overall picks record: 316-106 (74.8 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.