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The Ring Leads Back to Arum

December 02, 2001|STEVE SPRINGER

The lights are going back on in Arumville.

After Oscar De La Hoya lost to Felix Trinidad in 1999, promoter Don King, beaming because his fighter had beaten the fighter of his archrival, chortled, "The lights are going out in Arumville."

It took a while.

Arum promoted two more De La Hoya fights. But after the East Los Angeles boxer was defeated by Shane Mosley in June 2000, De La Hoya broke his legal ties to Arum, and the promoter's Top Rank Boxing organization, long a prime force in boxing, lost much of its influence.

The road to the top of the boxing world no longer ran through Arumville.

Oh, Arum still promoted lots of shows and was highly visible in the Latino boxing world through the Univision Spanish-language network.

He still ranted and raved, and tried to spin his promotional magic with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Erik Morales.

But in boxing, there are only a few big names. If you have De La Hoya, or Mike Tyson, or one of the major titleholders, people will pay attention. If not, all the ranting and raving in the world won't matter.

Last summer, Arum tried to build up Julio Gonzalez as a threat to undisputed light-heavyweight champion Roy Jones for their Staples Center fight, scolding L.A. reporters for not taking Gonzalez seriously.

But a mismatch is a mismatch and all of Arum's smoke and mirrors couldn't change that.

His difficulties extended beyond the ring. After admitting in a New Jersey courtroom that he had made an illegal $100,000 payment to the International Boxing Federation in 1995 to get a heavyweight fight between George Foreman and Axel Schulz sanctioned, Arum was fined and disciplined by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

There was speculation that he might retire. He had made his mark in boxing many times over--with Muhammad Ali in the 1970s, with nonheavyweights Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns in the '80s and with De La Hoya, arguably his masterpiece, in the '90s.

In his late 60s, with all the money he and his family will need, why would Arum want to start all over in a new century?

"Because it's still fun," Arum said.

And despite King's gloating, other rivals never expected Arumville to remain a ghost town.

"If Bob is down, I don't expect him to stay down," promoter Dan Goossen said at the time.

And now, Arum is only a signature away from being back on top. If his and De La Hoya's lawyers sign off on a proposed deal, as expected, Arum will be back promoting boxing's hottest property outside the heavyweight division.

That seems fair.

It was Arum, after all, who made De La Hoya such a hot property. De La Hoya, with delusions of grandeur, blew it, leaving Arum for promoter Jerry Perenchio. De La Hoya talked about putting on Sunday afternoon fights, he and Perenchio, showing the world how to really promote and other such nonsense.

Apparently, De La Hoya finally realized that, if he was indeed "the Golden Boy," it was Arum who had mined the gold by carefully promoting De La Hoya, by keeping him from missteps early in his career, by making sure any big names De La Hoya fought in his formative years were too short or too far over the hill to pose a threat.

Arum is not back because of anything he has done since De La Hoya left him. He is back because of what he has always done for De La Hoya.

"The basic guarantee for Oscar would be the same no matter who promotes," said one source close to the De La Hoya-Arum negotiations. "But a Bob Arum promotion can build up the pay-per-view buys and increase the percentage of additional revenue."

De La Hoya resented Arum's pocketing $12 million from the Trinidad fight, but De La Hoya apparently now realizes that no matter how much Arum pockets, he also will make more with better promotion.

So, unless there are last-minute snags, Arum and De La Hoya will be back together.

But as business partners, not as buddies.

Don't think Arum has forgotten De La Hoya's boast, after breaking his contract with Arum, that he had beaten "the biggest Jew to come out of Harvard."

Don't think De La Hoya has forgotten how Arum hung onto De La Hoya's Olympic gold medal, a birthday gift to the promoter, after the split.

They may soon be smiling, arms around each other, when their reunion becomes official.

That doesn't mean they like each other. It simply means they know how much money each one can make for the other.

And in boxing, that's what matters.

The Loser, and Still Champion

While De La Hoya's star is again on the rise, what of Shane Mosley?

All Mosley did was beat De La Hoya in their Staples Center match for the World Boxing Council welterweight title. But while De La Hoya negotiates for a May 4 match against Fernando Vargas in either Las Vegas or Staples Center that could bring De La Hoya $15 million, Mosley has agreed to a fight Jan. 26 against Vernon Forrest, another in a string of lesser names he has faced since the De La Hoya fight.

Mosley had hoped to fight Forrest at Las Vegas' Caesars Palace, but with Caesars no longer interested, Mosley appears headed for New York's Madison Square Garden.

Or rather, the 5,000-seat theater at the Garden alongside the main arena.

What does this guy have to do to become a prime-time performer?

This will be Mosley's final fight for promoter Cedric Kushner. Having taken the managerial reins from his father, Jack, Shane will be looking for a promoter who can give him the status he deserves.

King, of course, is interested in Mosley.

Might Mosley instead take a drive down the road to Arumville?

That's no more unlikely than the laughable idea--a year ago--that Arum and De La Hoya would reunite.

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