LEE SAMUELS TOP RANK: Greetings, everyone. Bob and I are in Las Vegas at the Top Rank headquarters. And this call is about the Vitali Klitschko/Hasim Rahman fight which was scheduled for November 12th here in Las Vegas on HBO pay-per-view. Obviously there’s been some developments and they’ll be outlined by my boss and the CEO of Top Rank, Bob Arum.
BOB ARUM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TOP RANK:
Yes, unfortunately, this would be the time that we would be concluding our press conference for the big fight that was to take place on Saturday. But, guys, I’ve been in this business 40 years and these things happen. They are unfortunate but you just have to pick up the pieces and go on.
We have a big fight coming up in January with Morales and Pacquiao and we’re looking forward to that promotion.
So rather than anticipate your questions I would think, Lee, that we should open this for questions and fire away and ask me anything. I’m happy to answer.
KEVIN IOLE: If you – when did you find out that Vitali planned to retire?
BOB ARUM: Last night Vitali called me at my house in Las Vegas at approximately 7 P.M. Tom Loeffler, the head of K2 had given me a heads up and asked me if it was OK if Vitali called me. And I said absolutely.
And we had a about a half-hour telephone conversation. And Vitali apprised me of his plans but asked that I say nothing about them so that he could make the announcement himself on the next day, which was Wednesday, today.
KEVIN IOLE: You know you, obviously, had your doctor look at him and he came up with a certain diagnosis which was different from the other two doctors that he saw. In your mind was there ever any doubt, you know, because I know the faith you have in Dr. Daly, any doubt about whether he – whether the injury was as serious as he’s portraying it to be?
BOB ARUM: Well, the injury certainly is serious because nobody gets an operation unless the injury is serious. So the proof of the pudding is what happened.
But Dr. Daly, you have to understand how this happened. I got a call around 8:00 on Friday night, last Friday night, advising me about Vitali’s knee. The first thing I thought to do was to call Dr. Daly, who was tough to reach because he’s the doctor for the Clippers and he was at a Clipper game.
I finally reached Dr. Daly and he and I arranged to meet with Vitali at Vitali’s hotel in Los Angeles. When we got there, there were no MRIs. MRIs had been taken I had been advised, but we didn’t have any MRIs.
Dr. Daly manually looked at the knee, thought that it was fairly stable, and said – and this is where there’s been a mistake, he said to Vitali, “Why don’t we try this latest state-of-the art knee brace and see whether that gives you enough support to go through with the fight.” And Vitali agreed.
He had a training session at 4:30 that I was present at and it looked like the brace was working until Vitali moved to the right and to the side and then his knee buckled and he went into the ropes and they stopped the training session. And everybody agreed that the brace wouldn’t hold the knee and, therefore, the fight had to be – we thought at that point postponed because we didn’t know for certain what was wrong with the knee.
Then I understand Vitali went to another doctor in LA who had been recommended to him, who operated arthroscopically on the knee and found that yes, indeed, there was a tear of the interior crucible ligament.
I’m not a doctor and that’s the story and that’s what happened. But nobody – Dr. Daly certainly didn’t give him any kind of green light to go ahead with the fight. He said – and I was there and I – Dr. Daly – I was present when Daly was on the phone with a couple of guys. What Daly said that it’s worth a shot, put on the brace, have a training session, and maybe the brace will hold the knee to enable him to fight.
And we did that, the brace didn’t work and so the fight was called off.
KEVIN IOLE: How much financially do you suffer by this?
BOB ARUM: Well, we certainly – we were insured, of course. But, you know – you know, you never get everything back with insurance. But, Kevin, I’ve been through this before. This is not, you know, like – unfortunately, not a unique experience. These things happen. So obviously there's a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of work and that was to Vitali’s credit. One thing that he kept reiterating in this phone call we had last night was how sorry he was, how he knew how hard we had all worked and did things to make the promotion a success and, obviously, there was no promotion.
But, again, you know, money is money. So you lose some money and you make it up, hopefully, on the next promotion.
KEVIN IOLE: Bob, I’ll ask you one more question let other guys have a chance. You seem to get a little bit invigorated again by this year you took the tour and did everything. I know King has most of the heavyweight champions. Would you ever consider again, you know, promoting a heavyweight fight or was this a one-time deal?
BOB ARUM: If a right heavyweight fight came along I would certainly be prepared to promote it. But I am not in the heavyweight business, I am in the boxing business. If there was an entertaining fight that I had the opportunity to promote, absolutely, whether it was in heavyweight division or any other division.
DAN RAFAEL, ESPN.com: Bob, can you just talk a little bit about your own personal disappointment because as Kevin touched on, you seemed very invigorated by being involved in a major heavyweight championship fight? And I know from talking to you your were looking forward to it. Just as disappointed as maybe you are for Vitali talk about your own disappointment in not seeing this come to fruition.
BOB ARUM: Well, obviously, I’m disappointed. My whole staff at Top Rank is disappointed. But again, these things happen. You know, we have to be big boys about it. The one thing that, you know, to me is ludicrous are some statements made by King’s lawyer which are just inappropriate. I mean what the hell is he thinking of making statements like that. I mean the last guy that wanted to see this fight not happen even more than me was Vitali Klitschko.
I mean, you know, Dan, these things happen. I’m a big boy. If I was a new promoter, inexperienced promoter, I would take it a lot harder. But I’ve been in this business so long I’ve had postponements, I’ve had cancellations. When it happens it’s like a blow in the pit of the stomach but you get over it. Thank God at my age I have my health, I’ve got a great family, I’ve got a great business. Don’t cry for me, Argentina.
DAN RAFAEL: Bob, also, let me ask you can you just talk about your thoughts how this impacts just the heavyweight division particularly given that now that he’s retired, you know, despite what anybody thinks about the other guys there isn’t that, in my opinion anyway – that big superstar that Klitschko at least might have had a chance to be.
BOB ARUM: I agree with you, Dan, I agree with you. I think the heavyweight division takes as much of a blow on this as Bob Arum did by the fact that it was canceled. But again, these things happen.
You know there’s other fighters out there, there might be some other matches that make sense, I don’t know, you know. Again, you can’t cry over spilt milk. You’ve just got to – whatever’s left you’ve got to make the best of. I don’t want to be overly philosophical about that but I really believe that.
This isn’t a case of, you know, a fighter who signed the contract goes AOL – AWOL on you, you know, or somebody decides I’m not going to fight, you know, go screw yourself, or there’s a breech of contract or something that’s wrong happen. This is an injury.
DAN RAFAEL: Oh, no, I understand that. I’m asking …
BOB ARUM: And it’s not good for the heavyweight division. But, you know, a lot of things happen that aren’t for humanity, aren’t good for …
DAN RAFAEL: Bob, let’s put it this way …
BOB ARUM: Yes.
DAN RAFAEL: … is there – do you see in any way a light at the end of the tunnel in this heavyweight disaster that’s going on right now?
BOB ARUM: I haven't looked.
DAN RAFAEL: OK. Fair enough. Thanks, Bob.
BOB ARUM: Right.
STEVE SPRINGER, Los Angeles Times: When you talked to Wladimir last night did he indicate at all – I mean he’s 34, he’s looking at six months rehab – if the heavyweight division somehow emerges with somebody did he leave any kind of door open down the road that he might reconsider a year from now or whenever?
BOB ARUM: That was my argument to me. I counseled him that he shouldn’t retire, that he should vacate the title and leave it in limbo just in case something like you said happened. And he said no, that he wanted to retire because he was 34, his body was betraying him I think was the words that he used, you know, with the back injury, with the thigh injury. And that, you know, he loved the sport of boxing but, you know, didn’t want to put up with these betrayals from his own body.
You know – you know, it may very well be that with his height and, you know, that the body is more prone to injury than in say a lightweight or a featherweight, may very well be the case, I don’t know.
And so he said that he was retiring and he would look for other productive things to do with his life. And, you know, I wished him luck because I think he’s a fascinating guy and, you know, I enjoyed the time that I spent around him. I mean I think he’s a very unusual person.
KARL FREITAG, Fightnews.com: You had a great under card scheduled for this event also. Can you give us an update on the status of all those fights?
BOB ARUM: Well, the non-televised portion of the under card we’re doing Saturday at the Steve Wynn’s Hotel. Steve has called me and asked me if I would do that and I readily agreed. He’s doing a – for the customers that are coming in, you know, the people, you know, they were coming in for the fight but it’s an excuse to come to Las Vegas. And he’s doing a dinner with steaks, cigars, champagne, and we’re doing five under-card fights on that program.
The Nevada Commission has cooperated with us. There’s I believe one four and four six-round fights. Vanes Martirosyan is fighting, Mike Alvarado is fighting, Yanqui Diaz is fighting in the heavyweight fight. So I think all the under-card guys, those under-card guys are taken care of.
We have these two title fights, Margarito and Gomez, which we – which we offered to HBO and they said that they couldn’t accommodate it on the Mayweather card because they couldn’t accommodate it even through they agreed it was a terrific fight.
And we’ve offered Margarito and Gomez and Castillo – Martin Castillo and Munoz to Showtime in January. But I’m not optimistic that that would happen.
We’re often talking about doing a fight for Miguel Coto in February in which case we would try to link it up with the Margarito/Gomez fight. And failing all of that – and then – and then put Castillo and Munoz on the – on Eric and – Eric Morales/Pacquiao card.
One thing is sure, those fighters and those fights are not going to be abandoned. Because as a failsafe if I can’t secure a position on HBO or Showtime for Margarito I will, against the Olympics, mount a pay-per-view card around Margarito in February.
ROBERT MORALES, Los Angeles Daily News: Well, most of these other guys stole my thunder but I did have one other question. Your initial thought, considering that Vitali is only 34 were you surprised when he came at you with all that last night that he was just going to retire? Did that shock you or …
BOB ARUM: Well, it did surprise me – it did surprise me. But he – we talked for 30 minutes and he fully explained his position so that I see where he’s coming from.
You know if a guy – you know, going to training cap and training is really hard. And, you know, you have all these people from around the world making plans to come in to see him fight. And if he doesn’t have confidence in his body, if he feels that the body will betray him once again I can see where he’s coming from in not wanting to do it.
You see if you could guarantee him that he would be injury free and then he would go into a fight he would never retire, of course not. But that’s what he feels, that the body has betrayed him time and time again and would probably continue to do so in the future.
JERRY MAGEE, San Diego Union-Tribune: I’m in the same boat as my predecessor, I think you’ve pretty much addressed what I wanted to ask. But I do want to ask this, I’ve had guys in the boxing community who – that I respect suggest to me that they think that as big as he is that Klitschko would have been a difficult opponent for Muhammad Ali. Do you agree?
And how do you think Vitali is going to be remembered?
BOB ARUM: How he’s going to be remembered I’m too close to and I really don’t know. Probably not – wouldn’t – not going to be remembered as much by Americans as by Europeans, Germans and Ukrainians, because he’s fought over there.
I really believe that Vitali is one of the few heavyweights around today that would have been competitive with the heavyweights that were around when I first started in the ‘60s and ‘70s. You know, would he have beaten Ali, probably not. But, yes, I think he would have been competitive with a Ken Norton, with a Joe Frazier. You know, he had a – you know, he would outsize any of the old heavyweights and he did have a very good jab and a very good right-hand punch, a very powerful punch. He wasn’t the greatest boxer in the world but yes, I believe that he would have been competitive. I do not believe that he would have beaten Ali. I would have – I believe he would have given Ali a better fight than say a Mildenberger or Henry Cooper gave.
MIKE HOUSER, Nevada Appeal: Hey, Bob, I’m in the same boat as everyone else here again. I guess I would just like you if you could to comment on the departure of Lennox Lewis. Vitali Klitschko brought some credibility to the heavyweight division. Could you just talk a little about that please?
BOB ARUM: Well, you know, people remember the tremendous six-round fight that he had with Lennox Lewis. And he was ahead on the scorecards when they stopped the fight because he had suffered a cut and it was a horrible looking cut over the eye.
And I believe that people felt that he was a worthy successor to Lennox Lewis and that he could carry the mantle of the heavyweight division the same way that Lennox did. But I guess it was not to be, you know.
I think Vitali is terribly disappointed in the way this all came about. I’m disappointed, I know the fans are. And, of course, you’ve got to take into account that, Rahman, you know, he was looking for this big fight and he hoped that he would beat Klitschko in the ring so he’s got to be very disappointed.
You know, that’s – it’s a – it’s a sad situation for everybody involved.
MIKE HOUSER: Outside of King’s stable, of course, do you see anyone else – I know you said you aren’t looking – do you see anyone else out there that could step up and play this game with the other guys?
BOB ARUM: Well, you know, the guy that I think has the most potential is Dino Duva heavyweight. If, you know, he got himself a really good trainer, you know, this guy is fearsome in the ring. He’s a strong guy, (INAUDIBLE) a good punch. I think he could develop into a top heavyweight as Samuel Peter.
I would, you know, I mean he lost – he lost to Wladimir but, you know, I wouldn’t count him out. And, of course, Wladimir, you know, hopefully would be coming on. And Lamon Brewster could develop into, you know, a top guy. And Rahman is there. So there are guys around, there could be some interesting fights.
MIKE HOUSER: Got a question for you unrelated to the heavyweight division, any opponent in line for Cotto and do you think eventually he may fight Ricky Hatton?
BOB ARUM: Well, we would love for Cotto to fight Ricky Hatton sometime next year. And there are – Coto, you know, will have some big fights next year, you know, on the drawing board and fights that we’re considering – Coto against Hatton, possibly Cotto against Mayweather, Cotto against Castillo if Castillo is successful beating Corrales in the rubber match. So Cotto is going to have some big fights next year.
DAVID AVILA, RIverside Press Enterprise: Bob, when was the last time you had two Los Vegas shows would drop out at the – to the last minute like this? You’ve got this one and then you have the (INAUDIBLE) drop off?
BOB ARUM: I don’t remember. I mean that’s – you're absolutely right and both of them had to do with leg injuries. And I don’t remember the last time we’ve had a postponement or a cancellation based on leg injuries. Lucia had a ruptured Achilles tendon and now the knee blows out on Vitali. I mean this is extremely, extremely rare. Usually these fights are postponed because of a rib injury or a cut.
So, yes, this is very, very unusual. What do I make of it? I don’t make anything of it. These things happen, you know. Why are there so many hurricanes, I don’t know.
DAVID AVILA: You don’t feel snake bit like maybe I mean those two instances were the first time that – in a long time that you had a promotion where you weren't promoting Latino fighters and all of a sudden boom they both go down.
BOB ARUM: Ah, maybe that’s the answer. Maybe some – maybe somebody in the Pueblo Tribe felt that by me not taking the potion that the curse was on because there weren’t – although we had a lot of Latino fighters on the under card this one so maybe that’s not it.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY, Chicago Tribune: I was wondering whether Vitali in talking to you spoke about what kind of a factor the sort of 60-day ultimatum was? And I’m still not clear whether that was an ultimatum in which he was supposed to fight or which he was supposed to say I’m ready to train for a fight. And whether he made any reference to this happening to him once in the ring against Chris Byrd?
BOB ARUM: Well, the Chris Byrd reference came when we were talking about, you know, how hurt he was that people called him a quitter in the Chris Byrd fight but that the shoulder was like, you know, just impossible for him to continue. And he didn’t want anything like that to happen again. He didn’t raise it in the conversation last night.
The 60-day ultimatum, the 90-day, the hundred – none of that was a factor. He had determined that he would be out, you know. He couldn’t fight again for about nine months.
And, you know, there was no question but that nobody would expect any organization to keep the title for that length of time. So that didn’t play any factor at all at least in his conversation with me.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY: So it was more a case of him sort of pinning his – what was left of his hopes on that knee brace and when that gave out he made a decision that …
BOB ARUM: No, no. There was a hope after that when that knee brace – fight was postponed.
But if the knee injury wasn’t as serious as it turned out to be, in other words, if there wasn’t a tear in the anterior crucible ligament and it was just a tear in the meniscus then he – it would be a very, very short recovery and no real problem. When it was a serious injury to the knee which required a six-month rehab before he could start training again that was a horse of a different color.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY: So you may have negotiated on the 60 days if that surgery hadn’t been as serious?
BOB ARUM: Oh, that came up. No, Sulaiman was – I had a contract with Rahman that provided for a postponement of 120 days. So if I could have done it within 120 days, you know, I had told Sulaiman told me to send him the contract. But I think we would have been OK.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY: And you would have – you would have certainly negotiated for that?
BOB ARUM: Yes, absolutely.
CHUCK JOHNSON, USA Today: All righty. Yes, I just joined you just about 10 minutes ago. But as far as this – the future goes where does that put you in terms of this heavyweight picture now? I mean are you out of it altogether or …
BOB ARUM: I’m a young man. Heavyweight fights will come around again that I’m interested in and I’ll grab on and promote it. If there’s no heavyweight fights that come around that I’m interested in or, you know, if some other promoter has them tied up then I won’t. You know, fights are fights for me now. You know, I want to present great fights for the public like Morales/Pacquiao and I don’t care what weight division they’re in.
CHUCK JOHNSON: What do you think this setback does to the overall picture of the heavyweight division? I know you mentioned as heavyweights go the boxing goes so …
BOB ARUM: I think – I think it’s a real setback, obviously. Everybody was looking a Klitschko as the real deal, the top heavyweight in the world. If Rahman had beaten him Rahman would have taken that mantle. That fight’s not happening.
So obviously it’s a setback.
CHUCK JOHNSON: So, Don King just issued a release saying that he plans on putting together a tournament. What do you think about idea?
BOB ARUM: Hey, King can do what he wants to do. I mean that’s up to him, that’s up to him.
CHUCK JOHNSON: All right.
BOB ARUM: And I know that there’s some heavyweight that are disaffected with King and, you know, looking to …
CHUCK JOHNSON: What was that verb you just used, (INAUDIBLE)?
BOB ARUM: Disaffected …
CHUCK JOHNSON: OK.
BOB ARUM: … disaffected …
CHUCK JOHNSON: OK.
BOB ARUM: … with King and they’re looking to do other things. But, you know, if he can put together a tournament, God love him, but remember he’s got to include John Ruiz in a tournament.
WILLIAM TRILLO, Boxing2005.Com: I want to also go back to what a gentleman was speaking about earlier the under card. There has been some speculation that you were going to put Castillo on the upcoming Pacquiao/Morales card. Can you verify that?
BOB ARUM: That’s right, I’ve already – I have already said that absent getting a date from Showtime in January he would fight in January on that card, yes, that is true.
WILLIAM TRILLO: OK. And in regards to Margarito again?
BOB ARUM: Margarito we’re trying to put him on a card with either HBO or Showtime in January or February. And failing that I will mount a pay-per-view card during the Winter Olympics where my Mexican brothers have very little interest – mount a pay-per-view card around the Margarito/Gomez fight.
WILLIAM TRILLO: OK. The heavyweight picture obviously is a wreck right now. And I’m wondering do you have official confirmation yet that the WBC has, in fact, named Hasim the champion or are they still …
BOB ARUM: I – that is a question best addressed to President Sulaiman.
TOM THOMPSON, Tgerboxing.com: Bob, you spoke to Klitschko last night. Obviously, he’s very frustrated and very emotional. And sometimes we don’t make the best decisions when we’re in that state. In your opinion, do you think he will fight again?
BOB ARUM: Right now I think not because, you know, and I want to say this accurately, Klitschko is different from most athletes and most fighters. He’s number one, highly educated. He is extremely intelligent. He is less emotional than most people that I've met, certainly less emotional than I am. And I think he thought this out.
Now nine months from now, a year from now, could it be that he would change his mind? I don’t know. It took George Forman 10 years before he changed his mind but eventually he changed his mind came back to boxing.
So I can't predict what’s in the future but as of right now and based on my conversation with him and based on his statement today he is retired.
BILL CAPLAN, TOP RANK: Bob and Lee, it’s always onward and upward with you and with boxing. Will you say something about the press conference? We’ve got great earls listening out.
BOB ARUM: Good job, good job. For the Las Vegas press we’re doing a press conference Saturday and lunch at the Wynn Resort. Morales and Pacquiao will both be there.
And then on Tuesday at the beautiful Beverly Hills Hotel at 1:30 PM
we’re having a press conference, a big, blowout press conference. Morales/Pacquiao in The Battle, La Battalia.
LEE SAMUELS: OK, Bob, that’s it.
BOB ARUM: Thank you.
LEE SAMUELS: So let’s wrap it up.
BOB ARUM: Right, thank you.
BOB ARUM: Bye-bye, (sings) don’t cry for me, Argentina.