By Ronnie Nathanielsz
TOP Rank promoter Bob Arum isn’t someone you take lightly when it comes to hyping a fight card.
Sensing the less than enthusiastic response to the World Boxing Organization welterweight title fight between champion Jessie Vargas and eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5, Arum pulled off a masterstroke that suddenly fired the imagination of fight fans, especially Filipinos, who didn’t seem too excited about Pacquiao’s return to the ring against a champion.
Most boxing pundits, writers and columnists felt Vargas wouldn’t prove to be a challenge for Pacquiao similar to what Terrence Crawford, a legitimate banger at 140 pounds would have provided.
Arum, in as stroke of genius, decided to add five-division world champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire to the card, which surely will excite both Filipino and American fight fans since Nonito, who spent most of his years in the United States has quite a following among the hip hop crowd in America.
There is a certain flair about Nonito that is bound to complement the charisma of Pacquiao who, according to his former strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, is not what he used to be as a fighter and that he has lost his allure in recent years, especially after the loss to Ariza’s new-found boss, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
With Donaire facing unbeaten Jessie Magdaleno on the Las Vegas fight card, Arum has upped the interest and the expectation of boxing fans both in the United States and the Philippines and may find it easier to attract a pay-per-view audience, even though HBO Sports had earlier decided not to cover the Pacquiao-Vargas showdown, essentially taking a break after years of covering Manny’s fights which used to draw anywhere between 1.2 to 1.3 million pay-per-view subscribers at the height of his popularity when Manny simply ran through what may well be considered an honor roll of champions past and present.
Donaire brings in a different dimension if not aura to the Nov. 5 fight card. Nonito has his own following, moves around with a certain flair and talks well, which is why the American media consider him a star in his own right.
The 2012 “Fighter of the Year” and Manny Pacquiao, the “Fighter of the Decade” should prove to be a deadly combination that should spark a surge in both interest and ticket sales because both colorful Filipinos are going up against truly talented Americans with a Mexican heritage.
Magdaleno’s constant problem has been making the super bantamweight limit where Donaire holds the WBO world title.
Should Magdaleno make the weight and Donaire’s 122-pound title is on the line, it would certainly enhance interest in the bout.
With Pacquiao becoming the first Senator to figure in a world title fight in Las Vegas, it adds another flavor to the evening.
One other element that should drive the public interest and the opportunity to hype the card is the fact that Donaire, over the past few years, had been dreaming of fighting side by side with the hero to millions of Filipinos—Manny Pacquiao.
That wish has finally been realized and we personally expect Donaire to want to put on a show of his own after being given the opportunity to fulfill his longtime dream.
Both fighters are bound to be inspired by the competitive spirit not just among themselves but against two Americans who have vowed to shock the world with their performance.
As we assess the fight card we cannot help but be struck by the inherent genius of Bob Arum, with some prodding from the Donaires Nonito and wife Rachel. The promoter extraordinaire surely deserves his billing as the best in the business.