By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Just when you think you know, you don’t.
Remember when all the geniuses of the sport – you know, the so-called fight freaks and the lemmings who follow – claimed it would never happen, and they were all sure that they knew why?
We know Bob Arum and Floyd Mayweather Jr. don’t get along, they insisted, so the idea that they’ll ever be able to share a stage while a fight with Manny Pacquiao is being announced is simply not possible.
Less than a year ago, in fact, when reporting on Pacquiao’s contract extension with Top Rank, those clairvoyants used phrases like “killing any hopes” and “impossible to fathom” when discussing how the Filipino’s deal with the Las Vegas promoter would impact a possible mega-fight with “Money.”
Not only were they the smartest guys in the room. They had the attitudes to match.
Right up until they were wrong, that is.
“The quality of journalism today is not what it used to be,” Arum said in a recent phone chat, in which he described the way Mayweather had responded over the years to agenda-wielding queries about him.
“There’s a lot of gotcha journalism. It depends on how a question is asked, how the answer will be. I think that with a lot of this, the press prodded Floyd into castigating me personally when I don’t think he really believed it, or that he would have said it if the question had been asked differently.”
His dealings with Mayweather, he said, have been nothing less than business appropriate, buoyed at least in part by the fact that the fighter continues to have a friendship with the promoter’s stepson.
Mayweather was with the Top Rank organization upon turning professional and laid much of the groundwork for his current success there, before choosing eight years ago to go it alone.
“It’s extraordinarily cordial,” Arum said. “Understand that Mayweather came out of the amateurs and went with us. He was a young kid, didn’t know how to pay bills or anything. He came over to our home. We spent over 10 years together. Whenever we meet, he greets me cordially. We come from different worlds and different generations, but we still are very, very cordial to each other.”
The reason the fight took all these years to get made, Arum contended, had far less to do with personality conflicts and far more to do – in his estimation – with Mayweather’s lack of real interest.
Even after a meeting with Les Moonves inspired breathless global assumption that the match would finally get made, the non-believing side of the Top Rank boss remained in full command until a fateful chance get-together in South Florida changed his tune.
“I was skeptical. I believed that we could get things done, but the one caveat I had, and that Manny had when we talked about it, was that we didn’t believe that Floyd really wanted the fight,” he said. “That perception did not change until that chance meeting at the Miami Heat game, when Floyd asked Manny if he could visit Manny in Manny’s hotel suite. That was a completely accidental meeting. Manny called me afterwards to say, ‘You know something, Bob, I really think he wants to do the fight.’”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF welterweight title – Sheffield, United Kingdom
Kell Brook (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Ionut Dan Ion (No. 1 contender/No. 20 IWBR)
Brook (33-0, 22 KO): First title defense; Tenth fight in Sheffield (9-0, 4 KO)
Ion (34-2, 18 KO): First title fight; Fighting in sixth country (Canada, Romania, Trinidad, Turkey, U.S.)
Fitzbitz says: He’s not quite the main event in the welterweight division these days, but Brook’s got the stuff to be a headliner at 147 after Floyd and Manny cede the stage. Brook by decision
WBA/WBO flyweight titles – Merida, Mexico
Juan Francisco Estrada (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Rommel Asenjo (No. 12 WBO/unranked IWBR)
Estrada (31-2, 22 KO): Fourth title defenses; Unbeaten in Mexico since 2011 (11-0, 7 KO)
Asenjo (26-3, 20 KO): Second title fight; Fought six straight fighters coming off a loss (6-0, 4 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Take a good long look at how a guy with Asenjo’s pedigree – 15 wins against .500 or below foes – is top 15 in two organizations, then explain it to me. Because I don’t get it. Estrada in 7
WBC featherweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Jhonny Gonzalez (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Gary Russell Jr. (No. 7 contender/No. 23 IWBR)
Gonzalez (57-8, 48 KO): Third title defense (second reign); Held IBO title at 126, WBO title at 118
Russell (25-1, 14 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Third fight in Las Vegas (2-0, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Gonzalez beat a legit champion to win his belt and Russell was thrashed in his lone title shot, but I still think the kid has too much skill for the older guy. Russell by decision
WBO junior flyweight title – Quezon City, Philippines
Donnie Nietes (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Gilberto Parra (No. 13 contender/No. 43 IWBR)
Nietes (34-1-4, 20 KO): Sixth title defense; Four straight victories by stoppage (24 total rounds)
Parra (19-2, 17 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Mexico
Fitzbitz says: Nietes hasn’t lost in a long time and seems to be getting better now that he’s got a championship belt. Parra, on the other hand, probably doesn’t belong. Nietes in 10
Last week's picks: 0-1 (LOSS: Joyi)
2015 picks record: 8-4 (66.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 647-227 (74.0 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@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.