Bob Arum leaned forward in his seat, a small grin creasing his face. Dozens of boxing writers hurled questions at him, making him, for that hour in that restaurant in Atlantic City, N.J., the center of the sport's universe.
It's the kind of scene Arum, a 75-year-old member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, lives for.
No one this side of Don King is better in such situations.
He extolled the virtues of his soon-to-become middleweight champion, Kelly Pavlik. "The implications of a win by this kid for this sport are staggering," Arum said, dead-faced seriously.
He argued passionately about his pay-per-view card on Saturday at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, insisting that the main event between Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera is a toss-up that either could win and that it won't be the one-sided beatdown by Pacquiao which many are expecting.
"It is a very serious mistake to think that because Manny knocked Barrera out in 2003, he's going to do it again," Arum intoned. "The circumstances are totally different. I think Manny will win, but not because he won in 2003, but because he's really improved tremendously since then. (Trainer) Freddie Roach has done a great job with him."
He jabbed at his newest nemesis, welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., and said that Mayweather, who is fighting super lightweight Ricky Hatton on Dec. 8, assiduously avoids anyone who could possibly beat him.
"Ricky Hatton is a good kid, but he has no chance – none – at beating Mayweather," Arum said. "If he did, Mayweather wouldn't think about fighting him in a million years. Mayweather doesn't want to fight anyone, and I mean anyone, who can really fight."
He analyzed the new appointments to the Nevada Athletic Commission, in which Pat Lundvall and Bill Brady were named to replace Tony Alamo and Joe Brown.
"I don't know the new commissioners, but they can't be worse than the two they're replacing," he said in his typically blunt style.
But the one thing he would not do, no matter how much he was prodded, was to take a shot at Oscar De La Hoya.
It is a dramatic change from his stance of the last year, when all one had to do was mention De La Hoya's name to ignite Arum's legendary short fuse.
The relationship that had made each man tens of millions of dollars had disintegrated into a sea of lawsuits, cheap shots and extraordinarily bitter feelings.
If it were simply a case of two men not liking each other, it wouldn't have made much of a difference. But the two were in charge of the strongest boxing promotional companies – Arum runs Las Vegas-based Top Rank and De La Hoya heads the Los Angeles-based Golden Boy Promotions – and it had a deleterious impact upon the sport.
At a time when the sport was facing a serious challenge from mixed martial arts for the hearts and minds of its fans as well as for space in newspapers and on Internet web sites, the feud between Arum and De La Hoya kept the companies apart.
"There were a lot of things we could have done together, but the feelings were too strong, on both sides, that it made it all but impossible to do," Arum said.
But on Wednesday, the two shared a dais in a restaurant at Mandalay Bay, extolling the virtues of Saturday's pay-per-view fight between Pacquiao and Barrera.
Money, of course, was the impetus.
"The lawsuit was extraordinarily expensive and I think both sides realized that that was just money that was wasted," said Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy's CEO. "And I knew we had to do something to repair that relationship."
Arum and De La Hoya once had a relationship so close that Arum said he regarded the 1992 Olympic gold medalist as a son. De La Hoya's feelings were so strong that on Dec. 8, 1996, Arum's 65th birthday, he presented the promoter with his gold medal.
Business, though, got in the way of their relationship. There had been numerous problems between them starting around 2000, but they reached a crescendo in 2006, when both claimed to have a valid promotional contract with Pacquiao.
That led to multi-million dollar lawsuits filed by both sides and a lot of angry words hurled back and forth.
But in June, a retired judge who was serving as an arbitrator, analyzed the case and convinced each of the merits of settling.
That opened a series of major fights that could be made, which begins on Saturday with the long-awaited Barrera-Pacquiao rematch. It continues on Nov. 10, when Golden Boy's Shane Mosley takes on Top Rank's Miguel Cotto in a WBA welterweight title fight and then again on Nov. 17 when Top Rank's Humberto Soto challenges Golden Boy's Joan Guzman for the WBO super featherweight title.
De La Hoya said the genesis for the settlement came in a meeting with Schaefer in his office.
"We were sitting there kind of mapping out what we would do and what fights we could make," De La Hoya said. "And every time we came up with a fight we thought would be really interesting, a Top Rank guy was on the other side. Richard looked at me and said, 'You know, I think you already know this, but for the good of the sport, we have to end all the suits between us and Top Rank.' And I knew right away that he was right."
De La Hoya and Arum agreed to meet in a hotel room at a Four Seasons in Las Vegas to officially end the hostilities. When they saw each other, De La Hoya said, it was as if they'd never had a cross word.
They hugged and instantly began to chat of ways they could work together.
"Bob is a competitive guy and I am extremely competitive and sometimes, I think we let those feelings get the best of us," De La Hoya said. "Those feelings have a tendency to come out once in a while, but I don't think we're ever going to get back to where we were when things were at their worst.
"Everything is good between us. I want to see our company do well and I know Bob wants his company to do well. That's OK. That's business and that helps the sport when you have two promoters trying to outdo each other with better and better shows."
As a symbolic way to end the hostilities between the companies, Arum agreed to return the gold medal in a public ceremony. It was done Monday at the Cecilia De La Hoya Cancer Center at White Memorial Hospital in East Los Angeles.
Cecelia De La Hoya, the boxer's mother, died of breast cancer in 1991. He dedicated the Olympics to her.
Arum, who said he had always intended to return the medal, hopes the move is a symbol of a unified future.
"Boxing needs us working together to truly revitalize this sport," Arum said. "To make big fights, you need the right guys at the right time. When you put Oscar and I together, along with the great fighters we each have, you have a chance to really put on some terrific, terrific shows.
"That's what this sport should be all about and that's what we need to do to counter this momentum you see with the UFC. We're a much better, much more compelling sport. But they do a better job than we do of getting their matches made and making them into events.
"Boxing's just been so fractured and a lot of that has been with the problems that existed between Top Rank and Golden Boy," Arum said. "This really is the beginning of a new era that I think is going to end all this nonsense about UFC overtaking boxing. I really believe that."
More boxing: Pavlik leave paycheck at hotel.
- Bob Arum
- Oscar De La Hoya
- Manny Pacquiao
- Marco Antonio Barrera