Top Rank, Bob Arum and Manny Pacquiao Are Going Global
By Michael Carpenter Harris II, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 18, 2013)
December 8, 2012 was a landmark night in boxing history. That night will be remembered for the fight of the year for 2012 taking place, and the night the trajectory of Manny Pacquiao’s career took a totally unexpected turn.
Manny Pacquiao is a phenomenon that rarely comes along in boxing. Although lacking an Olympic pedigree, Manny is lightning fast with devastating power, ring intelligence, but still wants to fight “toe to toe” as he so often famously quotes. Aside from all of these rare qualities wrapped up into one, Manny Pacquiao is also a fighter who feeds off of the love and adoration of his fans. It’s no wonder Manny was so visibly upset about the shower of boos he received from fans after his third encounter with Marquez where a lot of fans felt Marquez should have gotten the nod. Some of the very fans who spurred Manny to victory were booing him.
Fast forward to December 8th where Manny is taking on his greatest rival to date to erase the bitter taste of the third encounter with Marquez. It was Pacquiao’s mission to seize victory in dominant fashion to solidify his position on what was then a dual pound for pound perch, until a single overhand right from Juan Manuel Marquez rudely and abruptly dethroned one of the premiere fighting champions of this sport. Manny’s bravery and fearlessness had got him this far in his boxing career and, on the night of December 8, may have gotten him knocked out as well.
Pacquiao knows what all fighters at the professional level know and that is when you fight the best in the world the worst can happen. This time it happened to Manny.
Pacquiao is an experienced boxer who has been down before so the experience itself may not have been as bothersome to the ex-champ as the reaction of fans now that his popularity was at a world level. Streams of social media were flooded with parody of the once revered champion in an unconscious state against many different ridiculous backgrounds, similar to the “planking” phenomenon that took over the internet not so long ago. The new gag instead of “planking” became “Pacquiao-ing”. Many of these same fans, a lot of them casual boxing fans, began calling for Manny’s retirement and pushing the notion that Manny was done as a fighter and it was time for him to hang it up. Doctors who had never examined Manny were claiming he was showing signs of declining health due to a shaking of his hand a doctor claimed he witnessed from a television screen rather than an examination room.
All this is enough to frustrate any human being, but Manny is still a great fighter and wants to continue to build his legacy but where does he go from here? Enter promoter extraordinaire Bob Arum, perhaps the greatest boxing promoter in the history of the sport. Arum and his promotional juggernaut Top Rank Boxing have been locked in a bitter cold war with a promotional operation that has become a new and powerful force in boxing, Golden Boy Promotions. The war between these two promotional outfits is being fought openly and covertly and the battlefield spans the entire industry of boxing from fighters, to dates, to contracts, to arenas, through mysteriously powerful advisers, and now even to TV networks. The war is showing no signs of slowing and the conflict seems to be expanding with statements coming from Bob Arum saying Top Rank was “banned” from Showtime, which was the network he took Pacquiao to when he was unsatisfied with how HBO was operating at the time. Some would even argue that Top Rank’s influence in the industry was beginning to wane. As of recent events, it looks like Bob Arum, the promotional genius behind Top Rank boxing, already saw all this coming.
The Chinese culture has always been a culture that has had an affinity for gambling, so much so that the Asian nations have overtaken the United States on many levels in terms of popularity. Boxing has always been a sport that has thrived on the casino gambling atmosphere. Top Rank decided to take a trip to Asia. Top Rank has a unique flare when it comes to stocking its stable of fighters and their latest signing, Olympic champion Zou Shiming, was no exception. Top Rank signed Zou with much fanfare while also scouring Asia for a site to stage a tune up fight for Pacquiao before a fifth meeting with Marquez. Instead of a site for a Pacquiao fight, Top Rank found something better. They seem to have stumbled across a newly emerging market for boxing where they will build a new platform to showcase the talent on their roster.
On Sunday April 6, 2013 Top Rank Boxing will take us over the Pearl River Delta in the People’s Republic of China to Macau where they will stage Brian Viloria’s defense of his WBA and WBO flyweight titles against Juan Estrada. Viloria is a Filipino-American with a decorated amateur background that includes a spot at the 2000 Olympic Games on the United States boxing team. Viloria is only really known and respected by hard core fans of boxing in North America, but on the continent of Asia where 60 percent of the population of the earth resides, Viloria is a budding star. Now the signing of Zou Shiming looks like a puzzle piece that fits perfectly in Bob Arum’s master plan. How long until rising world star Nonito Donaire decides to take the trip overseas?
A pay-per-view from an exotic location would be a new and exciting prospect in 2013 for boxing fans viewing pleasure. In America, Bob Arum and Top Rank were facing promotional wars, network wars, high taxes, and a general decline in the popularity and marketability of their fighters, so what is a promoter to do? In one stroke, a simple relocation, Bob Arum is creating an entirely new market for Top Rank and for professional boxing that breathes new life into his roster of fighters and secures the future of Top Rank boxing. There is excitement and momentum building up in Macau, so much so, that the “Pride of the Philippines” Pacquiao has taken notice and Macau is in play to stage his fifth date with destiny against Marquez.
Spurned by his fans in North America and high taxes, Manny seems disinclined to fight in the United States. After many years of arguably being the most popular fighter in the world but fighting a majority of his fights at the height of his fame in the United States, Manny seems poised to take his influence and spotlight and expand the world boxing market in a way that would be unthinkable to other fighters of his ilk, while Bob Arum has an opportunity to build an audience in Asia that he can connect to the world through the magic of pay-per-view. Could part of the legacy of Manny Pacquiao and Bob Arum be that they bring Asia to world stage of boxing consciousness?
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