Talk to me about this Teofimo Lopez kid. What did you think about his recent destruction of Diego Magdaleno? Bob Arum: "I think he's a real prodigy. He's something that we see once in a generation, a kid who people didn't think that much of when he became a pro, who developed a style that the public loves and he's very effective in the ring. I think the sky is the limit for Teofimo. We can't wait to get him on that April 20th card, which is shaping up with Crawford and Khan at the Garden. We hope he's going to be fighting really tough guys like Pedraza and guys like that for the rest of the year. I think in 2020 we're going to be in for a blockbuster of a PPV with Teofimo vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko."
GL: Are there any surprises with Teofimo Lopez... is a WBC title fight coming down the pike?
Bob Arum: "Obviously everybody is looking to the WBC whose champion is Mikey Garcia, but he's fighting at welterweight and whether he wins or loses, it's hard to believe he'll be coming down to lightweight. If you're preparing yourself to fight a guy like Errol Spence you've got to bulk up your body. For him to go back to 135 after that is problematic, so I think Mauricio is looking towards the future. If Garcia gives up the tite he's looking for candidates to fight for the title that mean something and could be potential foes for Lomachenko."
GL: Are there any surprise additions coming to the April 20th event?
BA: "Yes, but they're surprises so I'm not going to tell you. There's going to be three fights underneath [WBO welterweight champion Terence] Crawford vs. Amir Khan. One of them is Shakur Steven vs. Christopher Diaz in his step-up fight, which everybody agrees is a great fight. Then we have Teofimo whose opponent we're finding now and then there's a fourth fight that we hope will be a championship fight and that'll be the card that we offer as part of the pay-per-view."
GL: I spoke with Teofimo's father and he told me that it won't be Jose Pedraza vs.Lopez on April 20th, but Pedraza or a fight like that will happen at Madison Square Garden in July, and Teofimo will headline.
BA: "He's correct. I don't know about July, but he will be the main event at the Garden in the summer and Pedraza will not be his opponent for April 20th."
GL: With [IBF lightweight champion Richard] Commey out of a unification fight vs. Lomachenko for now, who will Loma be fighting in April?
BA: "We're going to wait and see how long Commey's out for. It might be a matter of four to six weeks that we have to delay that fight. We're waiting on a call from Lou [DiBella, Commey's promoter] to see how long the injury will prevent him from hitting the bags."
GL: Not to put the cart in front of the horse, but if all goes according to Top Rank's plans is it Lomachenko vs. Lopez for all four belts at lightweight?
BA: "That is most certainly what we're hoping for. Boxing is a funny business though."
GL: What are you expecting from Shakur in this step up fight?
BA: "We'll see. I was very pleased with his last outings. He was a kid and now he's growing into a man's body. He's always had the skills. He's got great trainers and we'll see what we see. We're not making it easy for him and as far as the kid is concerned, he wants to fight [IBF featherweight champion Josh] Warrington tomorrow. It's like having a great yearling that you know is talented, but the trick about getting him to the second year and then to the Kentucky Derby is you got to pace him. You can't just let him run free and fight Godzilla when he might not be prepared for him. He might be, he might not, but you're not doing your job if you just rush them into it."
GL: There's levels to this shit.
GL: Do you see Khan going the distance with Crawford?
BA: "I don't know. Khan is a terrific boxer let's be honest about it and Crawford takes his time. Look at the Jose Benavidez fight. That looked like it was going the distance, but Crawford got him out of there in the last round. I can't predict that, I don't know. Khan is superior to Benavidez as far as boxing is concerned, so we'll see."
GL: What's your expectation pay-per-view wise for the show?
BA: "Ask me that two weeks before. We're going to get a tremendous megaphone from ESPN with all of their assets working towards building up the pay-per-view and two or three weeks before the fight we'll begin to know how successful it is. I don't want to say anything now because right now it would just be a hope. I really believe it's going to be very successful with the megaphone, but until I see the megaphone in action I really can't make a judgement. If we get the assets of ESPN promoting this fight the way I hope, the number will be a helluva lot bigger than the one I know you're thinking right now."
GL: A helluva lot bigger than he did for the Viktor Postol fight, that's for sure.
BA: "Oh yeah. There we had a megaphone with [HBO's] Peter Nelson that was just a squeak."
GL: What was it like negotiating this fight with [promoter Eddie] Hearn?
BA: "Hearn has Khan for three fights of which he's had two. We're not fighting with Eddie and he may very well handle the English PPV with Sky. Khan was always free to take a fight in America without Eddie as long as Eddie was named as a co-promoter, but we negotiated with Khan and his attorney."
GL: From the outside looking in, if you were doing this with Eddie I was thinking that with Teofimo Lopez going to Mexico next week, perhaps Lopez vs. Luke Campbell, another Hearn fighter could be on the horizon for an interim title or something like that.
BA: "That might be. I would love that and that would be a really good fight. Eddie is a professional and we'll figure out a way to do it. I know Eddie in the United States is aligned with DAZN and Teofimo is being built by ESPN so the fight would be in the United States on ESPN, but Eddie would handle the television rights in England for the fight."
GL: I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the Jose Ramirez -Jose Zepeda and Ray Beltran-Hiroko Okada fights. What can the fans look forward to this weekend?
BA: "Ramirez has really made tremendous strides with [trainer] Robert Garcia. He's becoming a lot more competent fighter and he's really starting to reach his potential. I think we always had hopes, though they didn't always look realistic, that he would one day be a star, but that's what is coming about. He's in very tough with Jose Zepeda who is one tough hombre and it's going to be a terrific fight. I like Jose's chances and we're going to keep him fighting at 140, but Jose tells me that his goal is to eventually go to 147 and challenge Crawford.
"As far as Beltran and Okada, we saw that Okada fought on the undercard and he's a very confident Japanese fighter and Beltran is not the freshest fruit in the basket. He's been around and he's a real warrior with a lot of age on him, but he always gives 150% when he goes in the ring so I think that's going to be another terrific fight."
GL: What's your opinion of the difficulties the World Boxing Super Series has been going through lately?
BA: "Again, boxing has always been a sport where the main thing is and everybody says it, show me the money. If you ain't got money you can't bullshit through a series or a fight. At one point it seemed like they had the money, now it seems like they don't. If they don't have the money they're finished, because in boxing the maxim everybody uses is show me the money."
GL: Gvozdyk-Egis. Lomachenko-Egis. Kavialauskas-Egis. Fayzi-Egis. All of them are with your company. How the f**k didn't Top Rank sign Usyk who is also with Egis?
BA: "Because, Usyk came with Lomachenko and in my wisdom when I was offered Usyk, I asked what division he would be fighting in and they said cruiserweight. I said wha the f**k am I going to do with a cruiserweight? You got to understand when that happened. When that happened I was with HBO and I had as much chance to get Usyk on HBO as to get you on HBO with Peter Nelson. If you go to Peter Nelson and say you wanted to put a cruiserweight on he'd tell you you're out of your f**king mind! I understood that with Lomachenko I could get him into prominence. To do it with two Olympic Gold Medalists when one is a cruiserweight on HBO it was impossible. If it would have happened a number of years later and Usyk would have come to me when I had the ESPN deal I wouldn't have let him out the room. But back then what was I going to do with the f**king guy? You understand what I'm saying?"
GL: 100%. Before this World Boxing Super Series tournament came around, $100K was big money for a cruiserweight to make and there was no way to know...
BA: (cutting in) "That we would have this outlet with ESPN where we can present our own fights without having a 'genius' deciding that he wanted other fights."
GL: Closing thoughts?
BA: "Everything is falling into place and I couldn't be happier. It's a lot of work for an old man, even though I got my guys doing most of the work. We've got three events in February, three more in March, three in April, three in May. It's a lot of f**king work! I can't complain, because during that same period we might have had one or two events on HBO."
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