Legendary promoters Bob Arum and Don King took a stroll down memory lane and look toward the future on Thursday, recapping their 80-plus combined years as two of boxing’s biggest and most powerful promoters.
The national media conference call also gave Arum and King a chance to discuss the upcoming, highly anticipated world championship event between boxing superstars Miguel Cotto and Ricardo Mayorga on Saturday, March 12, at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, produced and distributed live on Showtime PPV, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
The event marks the first time in five years that the Hall of Fame promoters have joined forces for a promotion.
Here are some highlights of what Arum and King had to say on Thursday:
Bob Arum: “There’s never been a better salesman in boxing than Don King. I worked my tail off as a promoter because I had such a measuring stick, a bar to reach. I think Don made me a lot better a promoter than I would have been and I think I made Don a better promoter than he would have been.
“Contrast this to the other so-called promoters today who all they can do when they get competition is whine and complain and shriek that a promoter has their fighters fighting their own fighters; instead of getting out and competing against me and Don. These guys don’t deserve to be called promoters.
“I have no problem dealing with another promoter. The operative word is promoter. Don King is a promoter. He knows how to sell a fight and he knows how to sell an event. We don’t fight with each other while we do the event. We promote the event and we know what the goal is. I mean look around today, other than maybe Kathy Duva, how many real promoters are their out there in boxing in this country? I say very few. They’re free riders who make deals with a network or some Indian casinos and they call themselves promoters? To me, that’s not a promoter.
“I don’t think Mayorga beats Cotto. I just don’t see it. If he does though, Mayorga vs. Pacquiao will be the biggest pay-per-view event of all time.”
What are your crowning moments in promoting?
“My crowning achievement is when De La Hoya fought Trinidad and Trinidad got the decision and Don was gloating on the microphone when I pulled the plug. And they couldn’t hear him anymore. That was my crowning achievement.”
Does that include when you pulled Don out of the ring during the Hagler-Leonard fight?
“That was second.”
What’s been the key to yours and Don’s longevity and success?
“First, nothing replaces hard work. And second is we are both workaholics. Sometimes people get old and out of touch, but I have always had a policy in my company of getting younger and bringing in people who are smart who can keep up with Facebook and Twitter and so forth.
“If Don had Mayweather and I have Pacquiao, I didn’t say the fight would be made in a day. I said the fight would be made within one hour. Don and I would have cut to the essentials. We would have worked out the few details and we make the fight. Mayweather would do well to go with Don. It would be one of the greatest promotions ever.
“Don and I first worked together on the Ali-Frazier III fight in Manila. But the one we really did a great job on – because boxing on closed circuit had really died from 1976 to 1980 – was the first fight between Leonard and Duran in Montreal. That one set all kinds of records and had the country really nuts. That was the first promotion of this modern era and a great success. And that was the first pay-per-view fight.”
Will you be doing more events together?
“Don and I bring different types of energy to a fight and I think it works. I think the public is intrigued and gets to know about the event. It benefits the fighters and it benefits the public and it benefits the sport of boxing. So by all means we are going to do other events together.”
Don King: “It’s great to be working with a real professional like Bob Arum. He’s a real professional promoter. Every day is a new day and there is an excitement in the air. Ricardo Mayorga has been working very hard and dedicatedly and committedly to dethrone Cotto on the 12th. There are a few days left. It’s just nine days away and I call it an escape fight. We want to bring boxing back to the people. That’s what it all basically boils down to. And the people will respond in time.
“I never would have known how good I was if I wouldn’t have had Bob Arum. So I’ve always been able to be a promoter of the people and for the people and by the people with my magic lines and my people ties. And so when you have somebody who is formidable you have to deal with what is real and you cannot rest on your laurels. You’ve got to make the next one better than the last one. And so he’s always been there sniffing at me which means I have to go out there and work that much harder to bring the people the best in boxing.”
When did your relationship with Bob go from acrimonious to harmonious?
“We’re not acrimonious, we’re promoters. And that’s what we do. We have to seize the environment and take time to see what’s going on and figure out what’s the best way for the promotion to go. If it needs a little acrimony then we’ll give them a little flavor of acrimony. You can’t cook with cold grease. You’ve got to turn the stove on. You can’t bake a cake without electricity. So you’ve got to take each one as they come. But no, I’ve never just hated him. Get even with him? Well absolutely. So how do you pay back? You can’t just go out there and jump on his back or punch him. So you work hard to find ways to show a punch to the kidney. Or a little embarrassment here or a hilarious situation there. At the same time you’ve got to wait for your fighters to be able to fill the prophesy. So we use it interchangeably so you have all the ingredients that makes it necessary to have a great fight?
How does this promotion differ from the ones you’ve work on in the past?
“This one is vintage. It’s like a fine wine, it gets better with age. This one is something that is very gratifying. You always want to get something that will cause a lot of unrest and a lot of drama. Surprisingly we are delivering on this fight so far, keep my fingers crossed. Because I know my fighter is crazy and so does Bob. But this is the most promotable fighter that’s out there today. All he has to do is to dedicate himself and nothing will be able to beat him in the box office or otherwise. And that’s what I’ve encouraged him to do. I’ve never seen him so dedicated. He’s going to have his plate of Puerto Rican beans on the scale with him at the weigh-in. Now he’s talking like the fighter that I used to have. He’s finally returned home. We want to just make this a great fight for the public. It’s going to be delicious.
“You will never be able to replace boxing as a sport. What Bob and I have seen is boxing going down because there were no heroes. And so what we did was come together to save a sport that has been so good to us and to the American public. From the Rumble in the Jungle to the Thrilla in Manila from all the great fights including Hagler-Hearns, now we want to give the people what they really want to see and that’s the excitement of a great prize fight where the fighters come to fight. So it’s our commitment to give something back to the people and not just take, take, take and then whine when you don’t get anything back. Let’s show people what we can do and that’s what we’re doing.
“I’m already planning on Cotto getting knocked out then Mayorga gets a shot a Pacquiao. And after he knocks out Pacquiao then we go after whoever Bob has developed next … We are going to get more promotions that are great for the people. Not playing the game of hide and seek. You know, ‘I see you.’ So get this on pay-per-view. It’s a must-see.”
What are your crowning moments in promoting?
“My first would be when I had Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle and he did something that nobody else thought he’d be able to do when he beat George Foreman. That set the tone for a whole new era. For Ali to pull that out that then led to so many more crowning achievements … Everyone in the press predicted he was too old and he was finished and he wouldn’t beat this giant of a man in George Foreman and he won. That was a crowning achievement.
“This is not a new beginning. It’s a return to glory. We are back into the forefront of boxing, the Sweet Science. We are just renewing old acquaintances.”
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