Is Arum still in charge?

Manila Times - - SPORTS - ED C. TOLENTINO at­ty_e­d­uardo@ya­

ON pa­per, Bob Arum is the ex clu­sive pro­moter of eight­di­vi­sion world box­ing cham­pion Manny Pac­quiao, but lat­est events have left box­ing fans won­der­ing just who is spin­ning the Pac­quiao carousel.

In par­tic­u­lar, the camp of Aus­tralian boxer Jeff Horn is at a loss as to who is right­fully rep­re­sent­ing Pac­quiao on the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. Horn’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives claim that they have been ne­go­ti­at­ing with Arum in the hopes of com­ing into terms for an April 23 fight pos­si­bly in Bris­bane. From out of nowhere, Michael Koncz, Pac­quiao’s ad­viser, an­nounced that Pac­quiao’s next fight will be held at the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) against a still un­de­ter­mined op­po­nent. Koncz went as far as say­ing that UAE was the pri­or­ity all along and that Bris­bane was a mere back up plan. To ag­gra­vate the sit­u­a­tion, Horn does not ap­pear to be in­cluded in the UAE plan as Pac­quiao sub­se­quently con­ducted a ran­dom poll on Twit­ter to de­ter­mine the fans’ choice for his next op­po­nent. The choices were lim­ited to for­mer champ Amir Khan, ju­nior light­weight king Ter­ence Craw­ford, wel­ter­weight ti­tlist Kell Brook and Horn. Khan topped the poll while Horn pre­dictably came in dead last.

Horn’s camp is now rais­ing a howl be­cause Koncz’s an­nounce­ment came just when they are in the thick of ne­go­ti­a­tions with Arum. Koncz stressed that he is au­tho­rized to make the an­nounce­ment and Pac­quiao’s ac­com­pa­ny­ing “See you in UAE” twit seems to con­firm this. How­ever, the fact re­mains that it is Arum, not Koncz, who should be mak­ing the big an­nounce­ment be­cause he is, last time we checked, the pro­moter of Pac­quiao. It is Arum who is tasked to go into the nit­tygritty of the de­tails sur­round­ing Pac­quiao’s next fight.

Koncz’s an­nounce­ment ap­pears to be half-baked, if not to­tally hush-hush. He merely an­nounced that Pac­quiao’s next fight will take place in the UAE and noth­ing more. This has prompted many to won­der if the UAE is just be­ing used as an an­gle to con­vince Horn’s camp to come up with a bet­ter, juicier of­fer on the ta­ble.

Truth be told, UAE has no ex­pe­ri­ence in han­dling big-time world ti­tle fights and this early one can al­ready imag­ine the tech­ni­cal sna­fus that will en­sue. The only fighter of note who fought in UAE was for­mer su­per mid­dleweight champ Chris Eubank, who picked up a non­sen­si­cal win in Dubai in 1997. In stark con­trast, while Horn is hardly a house­hold name, a fight with Pac­quiao in Bris­bane will eas­ily at­tract an over­flow crowd. Un­like in the UAE, box­ing has a solid fol­low­ing in Aus­tralia, a coun­try that has pro­duced world cham­pi­ons like Lionel Rose, Jeff Fenech, Billy Dib and Kostya Tszyu.

A Horn-Pac­quiao fight in the UAE is a guar­an­teed flop. No­body will head to the desert to watch Pac­quiao take on a no­body, thus the search for a new op­po­nent that car­ries some name re­call. Khan emerged as a fron­trun­ner be­cause he has Pak­istani blood and a fol­low­ing in the Mid­dle East, but he may be dam­aged goods fol­low­ing the dev­as­tat­ing knock­out loss to Saul “Canelo” Al­varez. Craw­ford is the best op­po­nent, but a show­down with Pac­quiao can only take place at a mar­quee venue like Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada.

The way this writer sees it, the UAE as the venue for Pac­quiao’s next fight is far from be­ing etched in stone. There is so much con­fu­sion in Pac­quiao’s camp, to the ex­tent that it has be­come dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine just who is duly clothed with au­thor­ity. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what Arum has to say in the light of the fact that his hold on Pac­quiao ap­pears to have loos­ened up.

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