By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I ask you, Tuesday morning fight club, who among us wouldn’t want to be Bob Arum?
Regardless of whether you laud the Top Rank consigliere for a track record of boffo box office numbers or view him as clearly the frostiest participant in boxing’s 21st century Cold War, it’s already apparent that age 82 agrees with him more than most.
When word arrived a couple weeks back that all parties agreed on the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, the old man had not only laid groundwork for the current leader in the “top fight out there to be made” sweepstakes – but he’d also presided over the greatest turnaround from “ho hum” to “best in show” since Tom Brady took his passing act from Ann Arbor to Foxborough.
The parties will get together for the first time today in Los Angeles for an introductory news conference that’s sure to bring the media world’s heaviest sitters to what’s sure to be a rocking buffet spread.
Still, notice how it says “presided over” and not “orchestrated.”
Because as much credit as Arum might deserve for lifting Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao to above-the-fold status during respectively esteemed runs at TR, only a full-throated Pollyanna could say a Pac-Bradley re-do would have been on anyone’s must-see radar 19 months ago.
Back then, with Manny coming off a controversial third dance with Juan Manuel Marquez and Bradley having won precisely one career fight as a full-bellied welterweight, Arum put the two of them together as a means of giving one a useful name on the resume and the other a fleeting chance at recognition.
No one was begging for it going in. And coming out, after Bradley was awarded a split decision that had the promoter lobbying the Nevada attorney general’s office for formal investigation, even fewer people were clamoring for Pacquiao to waste time avenging a champion nearly unanimously ignored.
There was so little interest, in fact, that Arum inked Pacquiao for a fourth with Marquez rather than a re-do with Bradley, who was instead left to defend against an anonymous Russian, Ruslan Provodnikov.
Little did he know that it was the stuff that genius – or at least remarkably good fortune – is made of.
While Pacquiao’s subsequent slumber against JMM was viewed as a potential career-ender in December 2012, Bradley’s full-on pier-6’er with his unheralded foil three months later was an integral first step in changing “Desert Storm’s” perception from a feather-fisted slapper to a fan-friendly warrior.
Bradley parlayed the era of good feeling into a title-level showdown with “PacMan’s” more conclusive conqueror, Marquez. And upon winning a more-decisive-than-it-was-scored split decision, he completed a rapid ascension into the upper echelon of most respected pound-for-pound ranking lists.
(NOTE: Respect it at your own risk, but he’s fourth on my P4P list to Pacquiao’s eighth.)
Conveniently enough, Pacquiao returned from his post-Marquez hiatus a month later to bang-up reviews, which immediately prompted calls to resume pound-for-pound scalp collecting – with Top Rank stablemate Bradley and Wild Card Gym teammate Provodnikov as the most-available options.
The former is a better story. The latter is a better fight.
Ironically enough, it was the putrid decision that put Bradley over the top… again.
“Bradley really established himself and differentiated himself from the pack with the Provodnikov and Marquez wins and he really wanted this rematch. So did Manny,” said Todd duBoef, Top Rank’s president. “They both wanted the fight. Manny wants to set the record straight about the first fight and Timmy wants to erase the thought that he was given a gift.
“He thinks he won legitimately the first time and he says he will do it again.”
Today’s event begins two-plus months of similar pre-fight 2012 revisionism, which will both fuel the herd reporting from boxing’s journalistic contingent until show time arrives and provide the talking points for Live Schreiber’s inaugural incantations when the next 24/7 train pulls out sometime in March.
It won’t make the fight in April any better, but it’ll surely get it talked about more than the first one.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC strawweight title – Haikou, China
Xiong Zhao Zhong (champion) vs. Oswaldo Novoa (No. 2 contender)
Zhong (22-4-1, 12 KO): Third title defense; Twenty-fourth fight in China (21-1-1)
Novoa (12-4-1, 7 KO): First title fight; Eighth fight against plus-.500 fighter (4-3)
Fitzbitz says: “Novoa may be a fine person and is enough of a fighter to be ranked second with a thin resume, but he’s got as much chance of winning in China as being elected premier.” Zhong by decision
WBC light flyweight title – Huixquilucan, Mexico
Adrian Hernandez (champion) vs. Janiel Rivera (unranked)
Hernandez (28-2-1, 17 KO): Fourth title defense; Unbeaten in Mexico since 2008 (12-0)
Rivera (10-1-2, 6 KO): First title fight; Has never fought an opponent who his previous fight
Fitzbitz says: “The 22-year-old challenger has Miguel Cotto as a promoter, but unless the former champ subs in for him here, it doesn’t appear that a title is in his imminent future.” Hernandez in 7
Last week’s picks: 1-1
2014 picks record: 6-1 (85.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 554-195 (73.9 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
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.