This Tuesday, Top Rank will stage a press conference at the Tucson Arena in Tucson, Arizona, to formally announce its September 22 card on ESPN, from this venue that will serve as the homecoming for WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez (who faces Genesis Servania). The co-feature will have WBO super middleweight beltholder Gilberto Ramirez face Jesse Hart.
There was a time when this state had a legitimate gate attraction in Michael Carbajal, who, after representing the United States in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, signed with Top Rank and embarked on a highly successful and lucrative career.
The hope is Arizona can once again be re-established as a boxing market like during the glory days of Carbajal.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum recalled of that period of time, “In Phoenix, we had the support of the American West Arena, which was, at that point, run by the Phoenix Suns by the (Jerry) Colangelo family and they were very, very supportive and we did great, great cards for Carbajal.
“Can it be replicated in Tucson?” asked Arum, of the city best known for being the home of the University of Arizona (Bear Down!).”I don’t know; Tucson is a little bit different from Phoenix. It’s not the same kind of place. On the other hand, the mayor of Tucson (Jonathan Rothschild) is a tremendous supporter of (Oscar) Valdez and a tremendous supporter of the event and he will be one of the chairpeople at the press conference on Tuesday.
In recent years, Arizona has done smaller cards that are staged by Iron Boy Promotions at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix. The Casino Del Sol in Tucson does various shows throughout the year, with different promoters. It’s been puzzling to see a state with a sizable population (just over six million) and a large contingent of Mexican-Americans (nearly 1.9 million) not become a more popular destination for larger promotions, post-Carbajal.
“I think they had problems politically with the commission. There was a lot of in-fighting with the commission. There were like renegade people bringing crazy lawsuits against each other and it just wasn’t worth the trouble,” opined Arum.
With its new ESPN venture, Top Rank is making a point to stage these cards in the appropriate locales and venues. No Indian casinos thus far. Arum pointed out, “We started out with a 52,000-seat arena and we wont replicate that but 12,000 people will be in Nebraska (when WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford faces IBF/WBA counterpart Julius Indongo next Saturday in Lincoln). In Los Angeles (for WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko) when (Orlando) Salido fell out (for their rematch), we went with Miguel Marriaga and we downsized to the Microsoft Theater, which was a great, great venue for the fight and we didn’t do what we would have at the Staples Center. Then, as we go on, we’ll be in Madison Square Garden in December and various other places.
“Now, there’s certain times, for example, we have a Halloween night show later on, on October 31st, so, there, you can’t realistically go in the middle of the week – especially Halloween night – go to a big venue. So you have to go to like a Cosmo (in Las Vegas) or something like that.”
So who’s in the lead to face Lomachenko in December?
Arum told UCNLive.com on Friday, “I’m telling you, again; we have offers out to Salido, (WBA junior featherweight beltholder Guillermo) Rigondeaux. Whoever hits it first is who we are going with.”
Regardless, they are moving forward with Lomachenko’s career and will not be squeezed for ransom.
”That’s right,” said Arum, who explained, “We don’t have a Peter Nelson (the head of HBO Sports) saying, ‘Unless you get this opponent, we’re not going to give you the date.’ It’s a whole different world.”
Last week, Lomachenko dominated an overmatched Marriaga over seven rounds in defense of his WBO 130-pound title. It’s clear that the gifted Ukrainian is the type of fighter the other blue-chip boxers will request certain financial demands to hook up against.
“I think they do want extra money to face him. If he was just an ordinary 130-pound champion, they’d be standing in line at a shot for the title. Now, they know realistically the chances of beating Lomachenko are not great,” stated Arum, who has compared his client to Muhammad Ali. “However, if they put up a great fight with Lomachenko, if they’re able to to stay with him – then they enhance their value.”
It’s gotten to a point where other beltholders like Gervonta Davis are pointing out the attendance at Lomachenko’s past to skirt the issue of facing him, which is ironic, given Davis has never headlined a major card himself.
”Well, that’s just silly. I don’t listen to any of those guys,” said Arum. “Obviously, if Lomachenko was Hispanic or American he’d draw better but we’re just starting with him. Eventually, people will realize what an unbelievable entertainer he is and he’ll draw tremendously well.”
Speaking of “Tank” Davis, he will face Francisco Fonseca on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor pay-per-view undercard. The two other supporting bouts on that broadcast, which will be distributed by Showtime, are a light heavyweight bout between Badou Jack and Nathan Cleverly and a cruiserweight battle between Andrew Tabiti and Steve Cunningham.
Before that begins, Shawn Porter will headline on FOX against Thomas Dulorme.
Hey, plenty of tickets available for this event – just log onto Costco.com.
There is boxing on this week as Omar Chavez-Robert Garcia takes place from Mexico on tonight on beIN Sports Espanol…Fidel Maldonado Jr.-Ismael Barroso will headline the October 13 “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” telecast…Arum says there could be an announcement for the rematch between WBO welterweight titlist Jeff Horn and Manny Pacquiao ”within the next couple of weeks”…Jose “Chino” Lopez, a welterweight from Puerto Rico, has inked a deal with Top Rank…I like the acquisition of Sammy Watkins by the Rams…Yeah, I watch a ton of NFL pre-season football. Sue me…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.