Bob Arum is a busy guy. The boxing promoter keeps busy . . . uh, promoting. I have seen him do one-on-ones this week with everybody but Ricki Lake and Chuck Woolery.
He is hawking a pay-per-view prizefight night--a good one, I must admit--with Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones and others coming up Friday from the MGM Grand. Word-of-mouth is vital to Bob and to boxing. Viva voce Vegas.
Yet, it turns out Arum's organization, Top Rank, also is delving into something new--basketball. Top Rank of Louisiana boxed out all the other bidders to buy the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA, who will be moved lock, stock and jocks to New Orleans.
"It's a great boxing town, too, New Orleans," Arum mentioned in passing.
It's a great anything town. A guy I know has this theory that every sporting event on earth should be held in New Orleans. Not only the Super Bowl or NCAA basketball, but I mean everything--the British Open, the Iditarod sled-dog race, Wimbledon, the Indy 500, everything.
Works for me.
I know what it means to miss New Orleans. I used to go to NBA games there, back before the Jazz moved to the town that most everyone in the music business naturally associates with be-bop, Dixieland, rhythm, blues and progressive jazz, yes, Funkytown itself, Salt Lake City.
New Orleans is hot stuff. It was made for basketball. I even have a name picked out for its new team, the Louisiana Gumbo.
For now, though, Bob Arum is concentrating on boxing.
"I love team sports, but in team sports, no one ever takes the blame for anything," Arum said. "It's always, 'Somebody didn't pass me the ball enough.' 'Somebody was hurt.' 'Somebody didn't guard his man.' That's why I prefer boxing. You're all alone out there."
Yeah, maybe, Bob. But at least in basketball, when the action stops, you know who won.
Boxing is beset with BS, as usual. Judging is a joke. Had one injudicious judge not taken it upon himself to score a round 10-10 in which there had been a knockdown, Evander Holyfield would still be heavyweight champion of the world.
Arum said: "I've been in this business a long time and I've never seen anything like that. There's not even a consensus on how to score any more. Guys are inventing new rules as they go along.
"Things have been happening in boxing to turn the public off. It's having a horrible effect on many fronts, especially with the TV networks. We've had horrid decisions, several items of chicanery, the attempt to take Buster Douglas' title away from him after he beat Mike Tyson fair and square, the Chavez-Whitaker decision, etc., etc.
"The more I see these bad things happening, the more determined it makes me to do things the right way. We've got to give the public fair fights."
At the moment, Arum is counting on a controversy-free show this week. It probably will be, Julio Cesar Chavez not being on the card.
Giorgio Campanella, an unbeaten Italian stallion--well, maybe more of a Shetland--figures to be the toughest test yet for De La Hoya, the junior-lightweight champion.
Jones, Rafael Ruelas and Danny Romero also will put their middleweight, lightweight and flyweight belts on the line. Ruelas is still eager to face De La Hoya in a bout between men who have L.A. in both their backgrounds and names.
But what, no heavyweights?
"The heavyweight division is in complete disarray," Arum said.
"No. 1, there's not enough talent. No. 2, the fighters, because they don't have to make weight, let themselves get completely out of shape, with a very few exceptions such as Holyfield.
"Riddick Bowe isn't charismatic. Lennox Lewis is ponderously slow. Michael Moorer is very, very suspect. Holyfield is history. Nobody young is showing me much of anything."
I thought this over.
"Then, Bob, give me your opinion on something," I said. "You've been in boxing awhile. In your opinion, who will be the next heavyweight champion of the world?"
Arum thought this over, but not very long.
"You really want to know?" he asked. "OK, I'll tell you. The next heavyweight champion of the world will be a 46-year-old man with a rather large frame."
"George Foreman?" I asked.
"George Foreman," Arum said. "I think George is going to fight Moorer sometime in November and I think George is going to take him. That should give you some idea of what shape heavyweight boxing is in today."