At Tuesday’s Top Rank media day at the Fortune Gym in Hollywood, CA for Saturday’s Nonito Donaire vs. Jeffrey Mathebula bout at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA (televised live by HBO, 10 p.m., ET/PT), promoter Bob Arum spoke to the media about various subjects. Among them was Donaire’s future, which, judging by how much taller Mathebula was over Donaire, is no certainty but could include a plethora of excellent fights.
“I think that the division is loaded,” Arum said of the junior featherweight (122-pound) division. “[Donaire] has a lot of guys to choose from. [Jorge] Arce, [Rafael] Marquez, [Toshiaki] Nishioka, [Abner] Mares and, of course, the guy everyone says is maybe the toughest guy is [Guillermo] Rigondeaux. So Rigondeaux is fighting on probably on the [Julio Cesar] Chavez-[Sergio] Martinez [card] on September 14. And Donaire, if he wins this fight, will fight Arce. And I think there are a lot of good fights.”
I asked Arum if he felt that Donaire, who is of Filipino descent but much more Americanized than Top Rank’s brightest star Manny Pacquiao, could reach the pay-per-view superstar heights Pacquiao has. Donaire has a lot of the intangibles that can make a star. He’s charismatic, friendly, well-spoken and, on top of it all, a singular talent as a fighter. However, Arum, who has been in this business longer than this writer has been alive, is an experienced realist.
“Everything is different,” he said. “Everything is different. HBO has taken a big interest in Nonito. They want to showcase him as much as possible. Whether he'll ever be or that division will ever lend itself to pay-per-view, I don't know. You don't know until you see.”
Arum dismissed the idea that Donaire being Filipino-American had anything to do with breaking through to the mainstream.
“No, I don’t think that has anything to do with it,” said Arum. “I think that he is making his own way. I think that his being a Filipino-American is a plus because he probably relates more to Americans, having lived here most of his life than Manny would. Also, Filipinos realize that he and Manny were born in the same hometown, in General Santos [City].”
When you think about Donaire’s contrast to Pacquiao and how one became a star while the other is still rising, it comes down to who Top Rank had available to fight. Donaire’s biggest names have been Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel, two fighters hardcore fight fans could appreciate. Pacquiao had Mexican icons Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales and later, Oscar De la Hoya to build off. Like Arum said, everything is different.
I switched topics and asked Arum if he was surprised that Donaire asked for anti-doping drug testing conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Arum responded with an emphatic endorsement of nutrition guru and anti-doping activist Victor Conte, who works with Donaire.
“No,” said Arum. “I think that Victor Conte has a big influence on [Nonito] and I really believe that Victor really wants to have good testing now. People point out Victor's background which was certainly there but I think that Victor is a reformed guy. And for me, nobody knows what they are talking about more than Conte does. He really knows the subject. And his idea is to have boxing be a clean sport without all this demagoguery that goes on. I mean, what's going on, managers don’t know what they are talking about; trainers don't know what they are talking about. I mean, Julio Chavez Jr., in his last fight, had to go to the bathroom and he delayed giving his urine sample until a little later. So the production assistant from HBO, when asked why they were taking so long, said [Chavez] hadn't given his urine sample, which of course, HBO talked about. But the fact is, a few minutes later, [Chavez] gave his urine sample and it was tested by the Texas Athletic Commission and it was negative. [Lee’s trainer] Emanuel Steward is now talking about how [Chavez] was so strong when he fought Andy Lee. (Speaking as Steward) ‘Who knows if he gave a urine sample?’ That's nonsense. You can't do that innuendo stuff. You gotta operate with facts.”
What Chavez Jr. and the latest, supposed incident involving him in Texas regarding drug testing and sample collection (well researched and written by Eastsideboxing.com’s Geoffrey Ciani, featured in the following link) shows us is that boxing needs uniformity in drug testing. What took place in Chavez Jr.’s dressing room was against WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code. That’s the bottom line.
“The only way we are going to get a uniformity in our drug testing rules other than voluntary which is never going to happen is to have either the ABC or a federal commission that subjects every boxer to random testing and has uniform rules and more important, an education system,” said Arum. It should be noted that because fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Andre Berto, Lamont Peterson, Saul Alvarez and now Nonito Donaire have stepped up and undergone extensive voluntary drug testing, the issue is not only on the table but becoming a wave of change. “I think a lot of the boxers that are testing positive like [Antonio] Tarver and so forth, I don't believe Tarver would do anything wrong. He has a whole career of not doing anything wrong. But I believe they get these strength-and-conditioning coaches that don't know crap and they give them stuff and it shows up as a positive because it is a positive. So I think there has to be an education program; it has to be uniform testing.”
Arum suggested that the sport go all in the way Donaire has. For boxing to prove its legitimacy, a radical change must happen.
Said Arum, “And I really believe that the only solution is random testing for everybody who is involved in boxing, whether it is a four-round fighter or a championship fighter.”
While we were asking for the perfect dream, I added, “And year-round, in and out of competition?”
“Year-round, just the way they do it in football, baseball,” agreed Arum.
Amen. Except let’s do it better than those sports.