NEW YORK, N.Y. — Bob Arum was beaming. The Hall of Fame promoter tends to emote whenever he talks about an upcoming Manny Pacquiao fight, but he was at his throaty, cantankerous, wise-cracking best on Thursday at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers at Pier 60 to announce the Filipino superstar’s June 9 welterweight showdown against Timothy Bradley.
Arum announced that 80-percent of the tickets for the fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas have already been swallowed up. The rest of the tickets will be available to the public on Friday, Feb. 24.
Despite Arum’s enthusiasm for the HBO Pay Per View event, the question remains: Will the public buy this fight? How will Arum use his expert salesmanship to convince Bob the Fight Fan that this is a must-see pay-per-view fight worth his $59.95 (or whatever the PPV price will be)?
The veteran promoter does not think the fight is a hard sell.
“What’s not to like?” Arum rebuked one inquisitor. “Tim Bradley has a pristine record; he’s never tasted defeat. He brings tremendous credentials. Plus, as I said earlier on the podium, he’s a real credit to the sport of boxing, and by the way he conducts himself in and out of the ring. I’m personally very proud to have Tim Bradley as part of this promotion. He’s faced some of the best fighters in the world today and he doesn’t care about the ‘0’ on his record.
“We’re expecting this to be huge. We’re expecting 1,100 to 1,200 media from all over the world to cover this, so apparently it’s a fight that will sell. But this is more than just putting Manny’s name on the marquee that sells this fight. It has to be competitive, and anyone who knows anything about boxing knows this is a competitive fight. So, in my opinion, there is no greater challenge selling this fight than I have for Pacquiao fights in the past. The people at HBO are pushing this fight and I don’t have to make up s__t to sell this fight. A lot of fights I have to make up stuff to sell. Not this one; here you don’t.”
Arum has a point. Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) does promise to be competitive, simply for the fact that the Palm Springs, Calif., native has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He’ll be receiving a career-best payday, a reported $5-million. But to Bradley, it’s not about the money.
“To me, it’s a fight, and that’s the reason why I’m not getting caught up in all the lights and flashing cameras, but I do know that it’s an opportunity of a lifetime, which I know I can’t blow,” said Bradley, whose most recent foray at welterweight was a 12-round unanimous decision over Luis Abregu on July 17, 2010. “This has been a long time coming, but it’s a fight, that’s all it is. It took me 18 years of my life training in this game and I’ve waited for this breakout moment; this is my moment.
“Pacquiao was in this moment when he faced some of the best Mexican fighters of all-time, when he faced Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez, so he knows exactly what I’m feeling and what I want. I feel this is going to be a great fight; I’m up for the challenge. I just want to let you know that I’m not just here for a pay check. I’m here to win this fight. If you’ve seen me fight before, you know I come to fight. That night, June 9, it’s going to be a war between me and Manny Pacquiao.”
Someone apparently forgot to tell the media covering the event, because when Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), was holding court for his roundtable discussion to the overflow gathered media, there was hardly any mention of Bradley at all. Pacquiao’s nemesis – Floyd Mayweather – dominated the discussion.
“As long as I’m still in boxing, there is still hope that the Mayweather fight will happen,” said Pacquiao, who at times wore a slight tinge of angst on his face when the inevitable Mayweather topic was broached. “I’ve heard it a million times and I’m tired of answering that question over and over. [Mayweather] is making a statement that I’m not the one who wants the fight. Like I said, God bless him, I hope the best for him. It’s hard to say what the real reason is [why Floyd doesn’t want a 50-50 split]. I’m not going to say in front of people what the real reason is.”
Pacquiao did refute one thing, the rumor that he may retire after the Bradley fight.
“No, no this won’t be my last fight,” he assured the media. “I would like to fight two, three more times. My kids, the youngest one is 11 years old, and he said, ‘Daddy I want you to retire, but before you retire I have one request, before you retire, you fight Mayweather and beat him.’ Even my kids want me to fight Mayweather. I want that fight to happen. My kid is 11 years old but he wants me to fight Mayweather before I retire. I’m hoping for a November fight [against Mayweather].”
Juan Manuel Marquez was also brought up, with the possibility of a fourth fight between the two after the disputed finish the third fight.
“My biggest concern is that I don’t want to lose the fans in boxing,” Pacquiao said. “That’s my first concern; I don’t want to lose the trust of the fans. There are a lot in sports today, the UFC, things like that. There are competitive events out there. It’s why I want to fight the best fights.”
During the announcement of the fight, Arum reminded the huge crowd collected behind a long steel fence that he’s been doing this boxing promotion thing now “for 47 years,” to which someone yelled “Then retire.” The ruddy-cheeked Arum stepped back for a second and laughed. Then he raised his arms and proclaimed “I’m still here!”
Yes, Arum is still here, selling and ameliorating with the times, using more social media to get the word out about Pacquiao and Bradley than the traditional TV and newspaper ads.
“I never ever thought I would have the time to see one of the fighters that I’ve promoted have their own electronic billboard in Times Square, and you know what that means, that millions and millions of people visiting New York will see Manny Pacquiao and the inspirational story about his life, because it is inspirational,”
Arum said. “That’s when you chase your dream. Imagine a poor kid from the southern part of the Philippines coming to Manila, living in a cardboard shack in the streets, fighting all of these other Filipino kids who wanted to use boxing to rise to prominence and then making it out of that milieu.”
Arum was beaming – and selling – again. Fight fans know Bradley. After Arum is done with this promotion, general sports fans will too.