They say time heals all wounds and that old proverb appears to hold true for Bob Arum and Don King, the oldest and most accomplished promoters in the United States.
The hall-of-fame promoters, both of whom are in their late 70s, were once sworn enemies but age has obviously mellowed the rivalry between the icons.
During a media teleconference to promote the upcoming Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga fight, their first co-promotion in more than five years, Arum and King expressed mutual admiration for one another.
Arum suggested that their rivalry, which raged during the 1980s and 1990s, made them better promoters.
“There’s never been a better salesman in boxing than Don King,” Arum said during the Thursday conference call. “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.”
King agreed with his rival-turned-colleague.
“I never would have known how good I was if I wouldn’t have had Bob Arum,” said King. “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. 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.”
Arum credited their success to their strong work ethic.
“Nothing replaces hard work,” he said. “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.”
Whenever the workaholics collaborated on a promotion in the past they often put on some of the greatest fights and biggest events in boxing history.
“Don and I first worked together on the Ali-Frazier III fight in Manila,” Arum said. “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 (Sugar Ray) Leonard and (Roberto) 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.”
Nineteen years later, in September of 1999, they broke the pay-per-view record for revenue generated by a non-heavyweight bout with the welterweight showdown between Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. Arum promoted De Le Hoya, who lost a controversial majority decision. Trinidad was King’s fighters. The fight took place during the apex of their rivalry.
Arum joked about an incident that occurred during the post-fight press conference for De La Hoya-Trinidad.
“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,” Arum said.
Times have certainly changed. Arum and King are apparently loving every minute of their latest joint venture, Cotto vs. Mayorga, a Showtime Pay-Per-View event that takes place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on March 12.
“It’s great to be working with a real professional like Bob Arum,” King said. “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.”
King said he’s got the next co-promotion with Arum in mind.
“I’m already planning on Cotto getting knocked out then Mayorga gets a shot a (Manny) Pacquiao,” he said. “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.”
Arum didn’t agree with King’s prediction on the Cotto-Mayorga fight but he didn’t try to pull the plug on his new buddy.
“I don’t think Mayorga beats Cotto,” he said. “I just don’t see it. If he does though, Mayorga vs. Pacquiao will be the biggest pay-per-view event of all time.”
Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank.