The Beatle and the Godfather were very much evident during a four-city media tour earlier this month, hyping a pay-per-view boxing event that the world might consider a consolation prize, but likely will purchase with gusto because more attractive options are not yet available.
The "Beatle" is Manny Pacquiao, the most popular, or at least recognizable, fighter on a global scale since Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali commanded attention that transcended their sport. During stops in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, New York and Washington that officially began the drumbeating for his May 7 bout with Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand, Pacquiao modeled a new look, a shaggy, unbarbered noggin that apparently was inspired by the Fab Four’s hysteria-inducing first trip to America 47 years earlier.
An aspiring singer who loves karaoke, Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs) more closely resembled an Asian Paul McCartney than Ali, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard or Oscar De La Hoya, iconic fighters to whom he sometimes has been compared. Maybe we should start calling him the Fab Filipino.
And while the 39-year-old Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs) was on the dais in each city as the designated foil, the most influential player in the behind-the-scenes drama is the "Godfather," otherwise known as Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum.
Make no mistake, what will transpire 2 1/2 months hence is as much or more Arum’s baby as Pacquiao’s latest superstar turn. What Arum has orchestrated is reminiscent of the closing scenes of the 1972 film classic, in which Michael Corleone ruthlessly and efficiently settles all family business, dispatching the other heads of the five families, getting his revenge and establishing his vision of dynasty.
Oh, sure, the matchup everyone most wants to see, Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (41-0, 25 KOs), has encountered more delays than the legendarily drawn-out construction of the Blue Route, so much so that fewer and fewer fight fans believe it will ever happen. But for that hardy and vanishing breed known as boxing purists, scraps with Juan Manuel Marquez (52-5-1, 38 KOs), who is 0-1-1 in a pair of closely contested slugfests with Pacquiao, or WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto (27-0, 21 KOs) probably would have been preferable to the finest fighter of his era thumping Mosley, a future Hall of Famer whose best days are in his rearview mirror.
Although Pacquiao isn’t fearful of testing himself against any man wearing padded gloves, and probably could have forced Arum’s hand had he insisted on Marquez or Berto, he has ceded near-total control of his ring career to the 79-year-old master manipulator. Like the youngest and most calculating of Vito Corleone’s three sons, Arum knows how to protect his primary asset, and has no objection to sticking it to rivals to accomplish that purpose.
What’s different about Pacquiao-Mosley is that Arum has brokered a deal by which an over-the-air television network, CBS, has joined with Showtime to sell boxing’s hottest property to home viewers at $54.95 a pop. Given that Pacquiao’s last five pay-per-view fights — all on HBO — generated total sales of 5.1 million, it’s a certainty his pairing with Mosley again will top the million mark, and may even approach two million.
The CBS Corp. and Showtime, which is a CBS subsidiary, are co-producing a four-part documentary, "Fight Camp 360: Pacquiao vs. Mosley," and ads promoting the fight will be shown via both outlets. That figures to provide a major revenue boost, since CBS — which will air some of the spots during the ratings-heavy NCAA Tournament — is available in 115 million TV homes, to just 16.5 million for Showtime.
"I would want for nothing more than for my legacy to be that I brought boxing back to network television," said Arum, who has championed that cause since over-the-air TV fights began being phased out nearly three decades ago.
But Arum’s altruistic pronouncements also are in keeping with a personal agenda. A former Department of Justice attorney during the Kennedy administration, Arum can make life as uncomfortable for perceived boxing enemies as his DOJ boss, Robert Kennedy, did for Jimmy Hoffa.
The onetime promoter of De La Hoya and Mayweather, Arum regards each as turncoats who bolted the Top Rank reservation after he had helped make them multimillionaires. Arum believes that HBO has tended to favor De La Hoya’s company, Golden Boy Promotions, which might explain why he seems to have taken particular delight in bringing Pacquiao to Showtime, or why Mosley, who left Golden Boy to further his chances of landing the high-paying gig against Pacquiao, was selected instead of the De La Hoya-backed Marquez.
It’s a cream pie in the face to HBO Sports executives, one of whom, senior vice president Kery Davis, is said to be under fire for not minding the store a little closer during a period in which the gap between HBO’s Hertz and Showtime’s Avis narrowed.
"It’s a one-fight deal, and we’re hopeful we can get back in the Manny Pacquiao business," HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said of the new reality in which Arum and his stepson, Top Rank president Todd duBoef, likely get to call more of the shots so long as "PacMan" remains boxing’s must-see performer.