By Robert Morales
One thing about Bob Arum, the 79-year-old chairman of Top Rank Inc. can ruffle feathers with the best. He was in rare form recently when he started taking pot-shots at the proposed April 16 welterweight title fight between champion Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz.
Arum beefed that Berto should be defending against the winner of last Saturday's Mike Jones-Jesus Soto-Karass fight instead of a 140-pounder (meaning Ortiz) coming off a draw with another 140-pounder (Lamont Peterson).
Welterweight is 147. Lou DiBella, Berto's promoter, countered by saying this comes from a man promoting a fight between pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and a fighter ("Sugar" Shane Mosley) coming off a draw with Sergio Mora, who turned around and lost to Brian Vera. DiBella also basically suggested Arum mind his own business.
Not surprisingly, the people at Golden Boy Promotions have taken an interest in this squabble between Arum and DiBella because Golden Boy promotes Ortiz. Its CEO, Richard Schaefer, had some very interesting things to say on the subject before the beginning of the Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales news conference Tuesday at the ESPN Zone in Los Angeles.
Speaking to BoxingScene.com, Schaefer slightly shook his head when talking about a man - Arum - with whom he has a hate-hate relationship.
"I've read some of DiBella's comments to that effect on BoxingScene," Schaefer said, when asked about Arum's instigating. "And I agree with Lou. I think, unfortunately, at this point ... I thought a few years ago we had seen the worst of Arum. But I don't think that was the case because he's getting worse by the day. And he's really just pissing all over anyone's fight, unless it's one of his fights.
"And these in-house fights, I mean, let there be no mistake, he has his own designs and so does (Top Rank president) Todd (duBoef). They want to be like the UFC. They want to control the sport and they're basically going to piss and try to minimize anyone else's fights as much as they can."
Schaefer suggested that Arum's act is getting tired.
"I think we're getting to that point, the media, the fight fans - because I've been looking at some of those blogs - they're calling Arum 'the old man' and that he lost it and so on," Schaefer said. "I think the boxing world's fans, the networks, the media and the fellow promoters, they're really at the point now where they're just sick and tired about Arum. I think he's been overdoing it now."
Schaefer's boss, Oscar De La Hoya, also was on hand Tuesday. De La Hoya didn't say a lot, but his few words spoke volumes.
"All I can say is, just stick to your own business," De La Hoya said, directing his comment at Arum. "He's in the Top Rank business. We're in the boxing business."
Arum was reached by telephone Wednesday in Las Vegas. He was told what both De La Hoya and Schaefer said, and responded particularly to Schaefer.
"Mr. Schaefer needs a dose of reality," Arum said. "We (meaning Top Rank) have never been as successful as we have been the last couple of years. We're putting on all the biggest events, we're getting the best ratings, we're putting on the best shows. When you lose touch with reality, it's really sad."
Waiting on Venue
Schaefer said he he is hopeful of getting Berto-Ortiz done by the end of this week so the fight can be formally announced March 5 at the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Matthew Hatton welterweight fight at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
"We have agreed on all the terms," Schaefer said. "We are just waiting for the site. It's a Lou DiBella show. It's a co promotion but DiBella is the lead promoter because he has Berto and we're just waiting for the site. We have a site on hold, which is the Home Depot Center (in Carson, Calif.) in the tennis stadium, which would be a fantastic location for that fight, to bring a world championship fight. Interesting, intriguing matchup to bring that there. So I think that should be the place. I'm waiting on Lou. I think Lou is working on some things."
High Hopes For Rios
Arum is promoting this Saturday's card at The Palms in Las Vegas that will feature Brandon Rios of Oxnard challenging Miguel Acosta of Venezuela for his lightweight world title (on Showtime). Arum on Wednesday spoke highly of Rios and his prospects for a fine career, but not without cutting to the quick about why Rios has only recently become such a hot commodity.
"Brandon Rios is somebody who I would consider to be a late bloomer," said Arum, who promotes Rios. "Early on, even though he didn't lose, he was lackadaisical. He didn't really stick to hard training and the last year and a half or so, Robert Garcia has brought him around and right now he is one of the hardest-working fighters that I know. And all of his talent is coming out because of how hard he works in training."
Rios was told of Arum's comments during a Wednesday afternoon telephone conversation from the Top Rank gym in Las Vegas.
"I agree with him 100 percent," Rios said. "I was undefeated but I wasn't really undefeated because I didn't train. Guys I should have knocked out, I didn't. I was in out and of trouble all the time, going to Kansas, going to jail."
Rios moved from Kansas to Oxnard six years ago at the behest of his trainer, Garcia, who worked with Rios near the end of his amateur career that culminated with him being an alternate on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team. But in returning to Kansas from time to time, he indeed landed in jail more than once.
"I did three months in jail one time," Rios said. "Overnighters. In and out all the time."
Rios said the last time he was locked up was about a year and a half ago. Then he decided to no longer hold an apathetic view toward his career.
"Now the last year and a half, I've been taking it seriously," said Rios, 24. "And it's been paying off."
Arum said beating the hard-hitting Acosta (28-3-2, 22 KOs) won't be easy for Rios. But he said that if he does - and he keeps this new attitude - the sky could be the limit for the fighter nicknamed "Bam Bam."
"If he gets by Acosta, he's going to be one of our stars in the years ahead," Arum said.
Sounds good to Rios.
"I've been training hard," he said. "My preparation is good. Robert (Garcia) knows, when I'm in shape, what kind of fighter I can be. I guess Bob Arum knows, too. It's an honor to hear him say something like that. He's a Hall of Fame promoter."
'El Terrible' Being Thrown To Wolves?
It was pointed out to Schaefer that Morales seems severely overmatched by Maidana and has no chance to win when they tangle April 9 at MGM Grand. So why, Schaefer was asked, did he make this fight fans are going to have to pay $44.95 to see on HBO pay-per-view? He put it on Morales.
"The thing is Erik Morales really begged us for this fight," Schaefer said. "He said, 'That's the fight I really want.' "
According to Schaefer, Morales talked to his father, Jose, and this is what he told him.
"He said, 'To me he is slow, he is wide and I have the style to beat Maidana,' " Schaefer said. "He was even willing to make concessions on the purse. He was pushing for that fight like there's no tomorrow. So did his father.They really feel they have the recipe to beat Maidana."
Morales is 34. His best days started in 1997 when he won a super bantamweight world title, and ended in 2005 when he lost a decision to Zahir Raheem six months after becoming the last man to date to beat Pacquiao. He has not won a meaningful fight since, and in his three fights at 140 pounds or more, he has not faced a killer like Maidana. It was therefore suggested to De La Hoya that Morales could really get hurt in this one. But he had the, "Hey, it's boxing," type of comeback.
"Well, Morales can get hurt and Maidana can get hurt," De La Hoya said. "This is a contact sport, this is a tough sport."
De La Hoya said that Morales did beg him for the fight with Maidana once details for a fight with Juan Manuel Marquez couldn't be worked out.
"We were like, 'Are you crazy?' You know Marcos Maidana, he's a big puncher,' " De La Hoya said. "He goes, 'I have that style to beat him. I'm a smart guy.' So we are obviously believing him. That's why we're here."
Soothing Roach's Soul
When it was time for Morales to speak Tuesday, he talked about why he came back. For one, he didn't want to go out like he did in his loss to David Diaz in August 2007; he retired for two years and seven months and is 3-0 in his comeback. He also wanted to make sure that Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, does not worry about him. Roach was quoted recently as saying he is concerned for Morales' safety in this fight against Maidana.
"There was a comment from Freddie Roach that I shouldn't fight anymore, and he was worried about my health," Morales said. "I want to say first of all, Freddie, I admire your work and I admire that you're worried about me, but there is something very important you forgot. He forgot that I beat his fighter, fair and square. I beat his fighter."
The first of three fights between Morales and Pacquiao took place in March 2005 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It was the only one of the three Morales won. No one has beaten Pacquiao since. (Pacquiao stopped Morales inside the distance in their second and third fights).
De La Hoya on Marquez
It will be interesting to see if Juan Manuel Marquez decides to go the way of Mosley and leave Golden Boy so that he might have a better chance at his coveted third fight with Pacquiao. Marquez's contract is up soon, De La Hoya confirmed, but the Golden Boy president said he is confident Marquez will remain with him.
"Well, his contract is going to be up in a few months," De La Hoya said. "But we're still with him. We're going to talk to him shortly and if there's any confusion, maybe, that's going on, we're going to sit down. But everything is fine."
Donaire Wows Arum
With one vicious left hook that spelled doom for Fernando Montiel in the second round of their bantamweight title fight last Saturday, Nonito Donaire left quite an impression on his promoter, Arum.
"Are you crazy?" Arum said, when asked if he was impressed. "To see a punch like that and having the force that it did, breaking Montiel's jaw. ... I mean, it's one of the most unbelievable punches I've seen and I've seen Tommy Hearns, (Marvin) Hagler, really good punchers. I've never seen a punch like that."
Arum said the ratings on the HBO After Dark telecast were terrific, more like the ratings HBO gets on its World Championship Boxing shows. He said the network is eager to bring Donaire back soon, and that his next fight could be against one of the other bantamweight champions, Anselmo Moreno of Panama.
Looking even further ahead, Arum said he has his eye on super bantamweight champions Steve Molitor and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.
"And in another year he (Donaire) will probably end up at 126 (featherweight)," Arum said.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram and BoxingScene.com