Bob Arum promotes the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios fight in Beverly Hills. (Getty)
Several times in 1963, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau had conversations with 31-year-old Bob Arum about a new job.
Only seven years out of Harvard Law School, Arum was working as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the southern district of New York office that Morgenthau headed.
The chatter was that if President John F. Kennedy was re-elected in 1964, Robert Kennedy would become Secretary of State and Morgenthau would become the Attorney General. Robert Kennedy and Morgenthau had chatted informally about having Arum move to Washington, D.C., and head up the tax division of the Justice Department.
"Had those moves occurred, I'd probably be a retired federal judge now and someone else would have had to promote all those fights," said Arum, who at 81 is still one of the sport's top promoters.
On Saturday, Arum will promote a pay-per-view show in Macau, China, headlined by a 12-round welterweight match between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios.
A half-century earlier, though, Arum was a member of the Kennedy administration and boxing was the last thing on his mind.
A year earlier, at RFK's direction, he had seized the assets from the first Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston fight that had been promoted by Roy Cohn. Kennedy had learned that Cohn planned to put Patterson's purse in a Swiss bank account and pay him in installments over 17 years.
RFK, Arum said, "hated" Cohn. The move Cohn wanted to do is legal now, but was illegal under 1962 federal law.
On Nov. 22, 1963, Arum was in a meeting in a conference room in the U.S. Attorney's office in New York. The door was closed. It was highly unusual that anyone would ever interrupt a closed door meeting, particularly without knocking.
But unexpectedly, the door swung open and a person told the startled people around the conference table that the President had been shot in Dallas.
"Of course, we were all shocked, but we didn't have any details and all we knew was that he had been shot," Arum said. "We were all praying for him. Everyone was saying they hoped it was something minor, more of a superficial wound, and that this would be something easy for him to recover from. Sadly, as we all learned a little while later, that was not to be.
"Everyone had such great respect for the President. He was very, very inspiring, just a great leader. He was just getting used to being President, with all of the administrative duties he had, when he was assassinated."
Arum left the government not long after the assassination, but his connections to President Kennedy weren't totally severed. He joined the powerful New York law firm of Phillip, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim and Ballon.
One of the firm's senior partners, Louis Nizer, was recruited to write the foreword to the Warren Commission report.
Nizer tasked Arum with researching and drafting his report. And so Arum dove into the Warren Commission report and read everything he could about the assassination.
Subsequently, he's read numerous books on the topic, watched Oliver Stone's controversial 1991 movie "JFK" and has seen countless television shows with theories about the assassination.
"I believe that Kennedy was assassinated by Oswald and Oswald alone, but that he was acting as an agent for Castro," Arum said. "I believe it's for that reason that even today, so many years later, that the U.S. will not recognize that Cuban government. It's why there is still an embargo on Cuba. Otherwise, it makes no sense."
Arum said he believes Castro acted out of revenge.
"Kennedy was involved in a huge number of plots to assassinate Castro," Arum said.
[Also: New forensics study investigates single-bullet theory in JFK assassination]
Arum said that many years after the assassination, he went out for drinks with singer Phyllis McGuire of the McGuire Sisters group.
Phyllis McGuire had a relationship with mobster Sam Giancana. She always insisted the relationship was platonic, but Arum said she was dating Giancana.
Arum said she told him when she overheard Robert Maheu, a confidant of President Kennedy's, talking to Giancana about murdering Castro.
In a 1970 CIA report that was published in the New York Times, Maheu was implicated in a plot to kill Castro. It noted Maheu had approached mobster Johnny Roselli, who had then introduced him to two men who were later identified as Giancana and Santo Trafficante Jr.
"She was dating Sam Giancana, the mobster, and she told me that she was there when Sam was talking about [the plot to kill Castro] with Robert Maheu," Arum said. "After all the research I had done, I had become convinced that Oswald did this on behalf of the Cuban government, and nothing that has come up since has made me believe otherwise.
"The Oliver Stone movie was total [expletive]. It was just fiction. And there is all of this other [expletive] out there with these crazy theories. To me, the evidence points at Oswald and no one else, but it's obvious when you know everything else, Oswald was hired to do this for the Cubans."
- Bob Arum
- President Kennedy