By G. Leon



GL: Big fight between Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao this weekend. What can you tell us about it Bob? "The thing I love about it, I know the people will not be disappointed. These two guys really know how to fight, they always come to fight and they have tremendous pride. We're going to see a great fight. Who's going to win? We're not sure, but whatever happens we're sure it's going to be a great fight."

GL: It was a fight of the year finalist last time around when Morales got the decision. Since then Morales got taken to school by Zahir Raheem. After seeing how he looked against Raheem are you as confident that he's going to handle Pacquiao's pressure and speed as well as he did the first time?

Bob Arum: "Knowing Erik the way I do and knowing the kind of preparation he did for the Zahir Raheem fight, he really didn't take that fight the way he should have. That's no excuse, but he really didn't prepare for it and he came in heavy. I think you're going to see a completely different Morales this time around. It very well may be that he's somewhat shot, I don't know but I don't think so. I think you're going to see a tremendous Erik in this fight and I think he's going to be able to fight a tremendous fight against Pacquiao.

GL: And you're expecting this largely in part because Erik has changed trainers, correct?

BA: "That has a lot to do with it. Erik has told me that the difficulty of his father training him was that his father let him do whatever the hell he wanted. The guy who's training him now, Lopez, is a disciplinarian and Erik is working harder than he ever has before, so I'll think you'll see the fruits of that next Saturday."

GL: I know you're not thinking pessimistically, but should Erik lose is there a contractual rematch clause?

BA: "Yes there is. The only contractual clause provides that if Pacquiao beats Morales there would be a third match that would be the rubber match."

GL: Immediately?

BA: "Immediately."

GL: Tell us about the undercard on Saturday night.

BA: "We were hoping to do Pavlik against Zertuche which would have been a great fight. Instead Zertuche is going to fight Zuniga."

GL: What happened to him fighting Anthony Thompson?

BA: "Thompson pulled out. Martin Castillo will be fighting Munoz for the 115 pound title and we've got another kid from Puerto Rico, Lopez, who we're expecting some big things from."

GL: Can we ever expect to see Martin Castillo and Jorge Arce?

BA: "I don't think with Arce so much, I think I would try to match him with Rafael Marquez. With Arce, I'd like to match him with Viloria or someone like that. Arce would love to fight Castillo and he told me that, but I don't expect that to happen immediately."

GL: Wouldn't it be more difficult for you to make Castillo-Marquez since you and Marquez haven't been seeing eye-to-eye as of late?

BA: "Well, we have had difficulty with his manager, who is a great trainer and a lousy manager, (Nacho) Beristain, but if the money is right the fight will happen."

GL: Are you expecting Morales-Pacquiao II to generate more PPV buys than the first fight?

BA: "I think so. The first fight was such a good fight and people do not want to pay their pay per view money on chess matches and this fight is not going to be a chess match. In this fight people are going to see a real fight and the way the sales are going on closed circuit with the bars and the ticket sales, there's a tremendous interest in the fight. The Filipinos really think Pacquiao is going to win and I do feel we're going to do better than the 360,000 it did last time."

GL: Last Friday we learned that Corrales-Castillo III had to be postponed. What can you tell us about the date for Corrales-Castillo III as well as the patch work being done for February 4?

BA: "It's really ironic in the sense that Corrales suffered the same injury that Castillo did before the second fight. Castillo opted to treat that injury, which really impacted on his inability to make the weight and he went ahead with the fight. Corrales felt otherwise, I could see both positions, but it is somewhat ironic. There's no question Diego injured his ribs in sparring and therefore he would have had trouble making weight, so we talked with Showtime and postponed the fight. It will take place later this spring when Corrales ribs are fine and he has the time to train properly. We're going to keep Castillo in and we have this fellow (Rolando) Reyes, who is managed by Gary (Shaw) stepping in to fight Castillo on February 4."

GL: I've been hearing rumblings that the card could be taking place in Hidalgo, Texas. What can you tell us about that?

BA: "It's been discussed, but we're not certain yet. The fight could stay in El Paso or it could be moved to the Dodge Theatre in Hidalgo."

GL: When can we expect an official announcement?

BA: "Tomorrow or Tuesday the latest."

GL: You said later this spring for Corrales-Castillo III. Will it be April or May?

BA: "I don't know yet. Whichever Showtime wants. It's really up to them and it really hasn't been decided as of yet, the problem with April 1 is that's the night of the Final Four in college basketball, but if they could start the fights when the games are over, it could be in April, otherwise it'll take place in May."

GL: WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito returns on February 18...

BA: (cutting in) "He's going to fight Manuel Gomez and that's going to be a fight of the year candidate, it really be. These guys don't take a backwards step; it should be a great fight with a glorious undercard. Viloria is on the card, Julio Jr is going to fight the kid he fought to a draw with last time in a six round fight, and Ivan Calderon will be fighting on the card as well."

GL: In your opinion, must Chavez Jr win impressively if he's to be taken seriously as a prospect?

BA: "Yeah, he's young. But I would anticipate he does. People who saw the fight thought he won the fight. Two of the judges scored it 3-3 and the other one had it 4-2 for Chavez. We'll have to wait and see but that should be a good and competitive fight."

GL: On March 4, Miguel Cotto will be facing Gianluca Branco in Puerto Rico.

BA: "And that's going to be another great card. We're all going to get a chance to get out of the cold and we'll go to Puerto Rico to see Miguel defend his title against Gianluca Branco. It should be an interesting fight, and you have to remember that this is the longest time Cotto's had to be inactive for his eardrum to heal, we've been told that it has healed and we're all looking forward to this fight."

GL: Honestly Bob after the fight with Torres was a fight of the year finalist; most people are disappointed that Miguel is fighting Branco. When can we expect to see Cotto in with a marquee fighter?

BA: "This year definitely. There's Castillo if he beats Corrales, maybe Cotto against Mayweather later in the year, Cotto against Hatton and maybe even Cotto versus Gatti is a possibility as well. We're hoping to put him in at least one, maybe two marquee this fights this year."

GL: At what weight will Jose Luis Castillo-Rolando Reyes take place?

BA: "137."

GL: Top Rank is busy this year, on March 18 you've got another pretty big show in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

BA: "Hasim Rahman and James Toney for the heavyweight championship of the world. All fight fans should smile at that because nobody is going to have to pay any extra money to see that fight, so I think it's going to be the best heavyweight fight we've had in years and it'll be shown to the subscribers of HBO at no additional charge. I talked to Ken Condon, who's the top guy at Caesar’s and he tells us that with the orders from various Casino's and our orders that the fight will definitely be sold out."

GL: Next up is April 8, which has been in a state of limbo since Judah's loss to Carlos Baldomir. What can you tell us about Mayweather's next date?

BA: "Well, we're trying to adjust the numbers with Judah and Don King as far as the Judah and King side goes and once we do that, we're talking with the Hotels in Las Vegas and believe me it's not the same fight that it was before Judah got himself beat, but it's still a very interesting fight. I think Judah's going to take this fight seriously, train hard and give Mayweather a helluva fight."

GL: As we speak, is the Judah fight the most viable option for Mayweather if he's to fight on HBO PPV on April 8?

BA: "Yes. There's no question about that. He's the number one option."

GL: Is that primarily because of the networks interest in the fight or the difficulty in solidifying either Winky Wright or Carlos Baldomir?

BA: "Well I can't sell the Baldomir fight as a PPV. HBO has no interest in that as a PPV. The other option is a Winky Wright fight but he's playing games as far as his position for the Jermain Taylor fight."

GL: Is HBO still interested in Mayweather-Judah?

BA: "Yeah, they're very interested in distributing that fight."

GL: Last week you made some remarks to the assembled media at Pacquiao's open workout that struck a nerve with Team Barrera. They pretty much said that the amateurs are wining 2-1 so it's not looking good for the pros then. Will this feud with Top Rank and Golden Boy ever end and do you ever see Top Rank negotiating Barrera-Morales IV with Golden Boy Promotions?

BA: "There is no feud. It's possible to do the promotion, but all you have to do is speak with Main Events and ask them about all the trouble they're having with the Vargas promotion. These people have a different idea of promotion and of risk taking. I would be very happy down the road to do a Morales-Barrera fight but it would only be under the method where we would...

GL: (cutting in) Where you would buy them out to lead the promotion.

BA: "Right. That's the only point I was trying to make, maybe inarticulately, but that's the point I was trying to make. I don't want to be their partners and I don't want to go into business with them, but I'd be happy to make the fight and pay them a very fair sum of money to match some of their fighters with some of mine."

GL: If Morales wins would prefer for him to fight Barrera, or is he hell bent on fighting Raheem, who I understand will be fighting Acelino Freitas. What can you tell us about that?

BA: "Artie Pellulo called me up about making a Freitas-Raheem fight and it'll be up to the Raheem people to decide which fight they would rather take, a lightweight title shot with Freitas or the rematch with Morales. But Morales has a fight coming up on Saturday night, so we'll see what happens."

GL: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

BA: "We have a great fight on Saturday night and everybody who pays the $44.95 is going to get what they paid for. Everybody in boxing is going to be proud of this fight.


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