Is Arum still in charge?

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Ed C. Tolentino

On paper, Bob Arum is the exclusive promoter of eight-divi­sion world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, but latest events have left boxing fans wondering just who is spinning the Pacquiao carousel.

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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 nitty-gritty 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.

For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.

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