There are no big fights coming up this weekend. Naturally, I blame Bob Arum and Don King.
Well, more Arum than King.
The world’s greatest promoter doesn’t have the talent under contract that Arum does. He’s been reduced to staging old-timers contests like Roy Jones Jr. and Felix Trinidad, or worse, heavyweight bouts. Heaven forbid he should try to do something for Juan Diaz, who as a lightweight king is treated almost like an untouchable.
Arum, I believe, is much more culpable. In boxing’s recent praiseworthy renaissance, where good fighters have been matched with good fighters, Arum continues to bite the bullet of danger to his fighters only when he has to. If it were up to him, he would turn guys like Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik into new versions of Chicken de la Hoya.
That was my nickname — based on Oscar’s inability to face all the trainers he was firing as well as the lineup of soft touches he was facing after he was lucky enough to get the decision in 1997 against Pernell Whitaker.
De la Hoya has proved, time and again, that inside the ring he is no Chicken. He has faced a veritable who’s who of future hall of famers and ducked no one short of Lennox Lewis.
Immediately after the Whitaker decision, de la Hoya said he would be glad to give the welterweight champion he had just dethroned a rematch. However, Arum ruled it out. He wasn’t going to risk his Golden Boy like that again. Instead, in his immediate fights after Whitaker, Oscar was lined up against David Kamau, an aged Hector Camacho, Wilfredo Rivera, Patrick Charpentier and Julio Cesar Chavez. The Chavez rematch Arum agreed to because there was no danger to de la Hoya.
It was only then, after the Chicken de la Hoya sobriquet had caught on and Oscar was hearing the Spanish version (yes, I’ve been translated) in his neighborhood, that he threw off Arum’s binds and became a man among men.
He demanded, and got, Ike Quartey and from then on, there can be no questioning his choice of opponents. He’s lost some, won more, but has been the steady flagship of an unsteady sport. Now that he probably will be facing Steve Forbes in a tuneup for a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., I have no objections.
But Arum, under whose watch (and King’s) the sport declined, is back to his old tricks. At the age of 76, one would have hoped he’d like to see better matches than the ones he’s been proposing. Let’s start with Pacquiao, who is among the top two or three fighters in the world.
With no thanks to Arum, the Pac Man is finally going to take care of some old business when he faces Juan Manuel Marquez in March on a co-promotion with de la Hoya’s Golden Boy. Presuming Pacquiao wins this junior lightweight summit match (I believe he does) Arum has him sketched in to move up to lightweight.
However (skipping such 130-pound threats as Juan Guzman), he will not face the top 135-pounder Juan Diaz or the "linear" title-holder, Joel Casamayor. Rather, he’ll go against David Diaz, a second-tier belt-holder who just happens to be promoted by Arum.
Diaz has no shot against Pacquiao. What does Arum care? Take Pavlik, who contractually had to give Jermain Taylor a rematch. That Feb. 16 bout is at the contractual weight of 166 pounds meaning even if he loses, Pavlik will still be middleweight champion of the world.
You’d think someone like Winky Wright or Arthur Abraham would be on the docket. Arum, insultingly, is planning for Pavlik’s first 160-pound defense to be against the undeserving John Duddy.
And Cotto, after barely surviving Sugar Shane Mosley to prove his place in the top five, is apparently too good for Floyd Mayweather or de la Hoya to risk the rematch of boxing’s richest ever fight. But there are plenty of damn good opponents out there for the undefeated Cotto in the starry welterweight division — Paul Williams, Kevin Cintron, Antonio Margarito (also promoted by Arum), even a rematch with Zab Judah.
Certainly, Arum’s plan to put Cotto on in April against one of the old Contenders — and not even a winner — Alfonso Gomez must be registered as one of the biggest slaps in the face the boxing public has received.
I’d say "Shame, shame, shame," but Arum has no shame. It’s his way of doing good business. Forget the long-term effects. Hell, he’s 76, let Todd duBoef worry about that.