Bob Arum weighs in on Prograis title fight, state of boxing
As a legendary figure in boxing, Bob Arum has promoted fights involving some of the greatest names in the history of the sport. They include Muhammad Ali, Alexis Arguello, Oscar De La Hoya, Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao, Thomas Hearns, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Larry Holmes, Thomas Hearns, Leon Spinks, Carlos Monzon, Ray Mancini and James Toney, among others.
At the ripe young age of 86, Arum is still in the game in a huge way as the founder and CEO of Top Rank Boxing.
Arum renews acquaintances with New Orleans this Saturday with a championship fight card, highlighted by the World Super Lightweight title fight pitting unbeaten New Orleans native Regis Prograis against undefeated challenger Juan Jose Velasco. The first fight begins at 3:30 p.m. with the undercard bouts on ESPN+ while the main event will be televised live on ESPN. Arum spoke about the return to New Orleans and the sport in general on All Access on WGSO, 990 AM with me Monday evening.
“The fans are going to see a really good card,” Arum said. “The championship fight matches two undefeated fighters. Prograis and Velasco should be a terrific match. The semi-main match features the kid that has taken boxing by storm, Teofimo Lopez (9-0, 7 KO’s) and he’s fighting a veteran William Silva of Brazil (25-1, 14 KO’s). The main event and co-main event are spectacular.”
The sport of boxing has admittedly and obviously gone through a severe slump in the last decade or two but appears to be rebounding, in part due to more exposure of the sport at the highest level on television.
Arum struck a deal to air Top Rank Boxing on ESPN in the last two years and significant cards and fights are being shown live via ESPN and ESPN+, exposing the best in the sport to a public which had largely forgotten about it as a result of the rising popularity of MMA and the preponderance of pay-per-view offerings for the best fights which turned fans off and chased potential fans away.
“To me, it’s been spectacular,” Arum said. “The people at ESPN are really great television executives. They gave us a contract to put on terrific events and they’ve kept out of the way. They tell us what time they want the events, the dates that are available and they let us program the network for boxing and it’s worked out tremendously. We’ve had some fantastic fights on ESPN as well as ESPN+.”
Arum is particularly high on one champion boxer.
“The great Vasyl “The Matrix” Lomachenko, he had a great victory over Jorge Linares,” Arum said. “He hurt his shoulder and was operated on. He’s undergoing rehab and he’ll be back before the end of the year. Some people say he may be the greatest fighter they’ve ever seen.”
Also this Saturday, Manny Pacquiao gives it another shot as he fights for a title once again, taking on champion Lucas Matthysse’s world welterweight title in Malaysia. Many feel Pacquiao is well past his prime and should consider retiring.
“When you get a guy 39-years-old fighting and that’s not his day job, his day job is being a Philippine senator, you have to question how long he should keep fighting. Well, we’ll see on Saturday whether there’s any more fuel in the tank. Lucas Matthysse is a very, very good fighter who’s been in with the best. We’ll see how Manny does. He’s such an iconic figure in the Philippines that even though the fight’s in Malaysia, the president of the Philippines is flying over to Kuala Lampur to watch the fight.”
Arum is taking the sport to the streets, across the entire country.
“We have 30 dates with ESPN and we’re trying to distribute them all over the country,” Arum said. “On June 30th, we’re in Oklahoma City for a great event. We were in Fresno last weekend. Now, we’re in New Orleans. On the 28th, we’ll be in Orlando.”
Arum feels New Orleans can host future Top Rank cards if this Saturday goes well.
I remember when New Orleans was a great, great town for boxing,” Arum said. “I did the Ali-Spinks second fight there, the rematch (Sept. 1978) and we had 72,000 fans there. New Orleans has always been a great sports town. I want the people to come out Saturday, cheer for Regis, the hometown guy and believe me, if we get a nice turnout, we’ll be back!”
Tickets remain available for Saturday’s card through Ticketmaster, by calling 800-745-3000 or by visiting the Lakefront Arena Box Office.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…