While much of Top Rank promoter Bob Arum’s time lately has been consumed by trying to finalize the fight he’s been working on between welterweight world titleholder Manny Pacquiao and Australia’s Jeff Horn, which is supposed to take place April 22 (probably in Australia but possibly in the United Arab Emirates), he also has a stable filled with other quality fighters he is trying to line up fights for.
Although most of the time I spent talking with Arum on Tuesday night was about the Pacquiao-Horn plans, we also got into plenty of other stuff he’s working on:
Arum said HBO has given him April 15 for a card to be headlined by junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko, of Ukraine, with up-and-coming Ukrainian light heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk ticketed for the co-feature.
Arum said the opponents are not set, but Lomachenko could face Panama’s Jezreel Corrales in a title unification fight. On New Year’s Eve, Corrales scored his second win in a row against Takashi Uchiyama, from whom he took the title last April in a major upset.
“Obviously, Corrales is the preferred opponent because it’s a unification fight and [Lomachenko] is obsessed with getting the other titles,” Arum said. “But there are other options.”
Gvozdyk may fight Cuban defector Yunieski Gonzalez, who many felt was robbed of a decision on HBO against former world champion Jean Pascal in 2015.
Arum said the card could take place at the new MGM National Harbor Resort & Casino, which sits on the banks of the Potomac River in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
While Arum is pleased to have a date for Lomachenko and Gvozdyk, he said HBO passed on a March doubleheader he proposed that would have featured featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez -- possibly against former titleholder Nonito Donaire -- in the main event and super middleweight titlist Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez against undefeated up-and-comer Jesse Hart in the co-feature.
“They could have that card for less than a million dollars, but they passed,” said Arum.
HBO has only one non-pay-per-view event on the calendar for January, won’t have any in February and may not have any in March.
Arum said he might take the two fights he offered to HBO for March, plus the first defense of junior featherweight titleholder Jessie Magdaleno (who won the belt from Donaire in November), and turn it into a small pay-per-view to come from Tucson, Arizona, where Valdez grew up. There is strong interest from the city and one of the local casinos in having a Valdez defense there.
Arum said the other option for the Valdez/Ramirez/Magdaleno bouts is to put them on April 22 from a U.S. site and have them serve as the televised pay-per-view undercard of Pacquiao-Horn if Pacquiao-Horn indeed goes on pay-per-view; Arum said his preference is to make a deal for it to be on free TV or HBO.
On Feb. 3 (UniMas) in San Juan, Puerto Rican lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo will fight Oliver Flores in Verdejo’s first fight since he was injured in a motorcycle accident last summer. If Verdejo wins and comes out unscathed, his next fight is supposed to be a mandatory shot at world titleholder Terry Flanagan, of England, in a bout that would have taken place this past fall had Verdejo not been in the accident.
Arum said he and Frank Warren, Flanagan’s promoter, are in constant conversation about the fight, one which Arum hopes to finalize for June 10 -- the weekend of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York -- at Madison Square Garden. Arum said he has the arena on hold for the date, although he said there could be issues because he said he did not think HBO was available for the fight on June 10.
“Frank may want to do the fight there [in England], or he may agree to come to the United States,” Arum said. “The problem with June 10 is that I don’t think HBO can do it then. If that’s the case, we’d have to move it to another date because we need television to get it done.”
Arum, who co-promotes newly crowned heavyweight titleholder Joseph Parker, is working on Parker's first defense, due to take place in the fighter's native New Zealand on April 1 or April 8. Arum said he is talking to Warren about making a fight between Parker and Hughie Fury, nephew of lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. “We’re close to a deal,” Arum said.
Another discussion Arum said he and Warren are having is about Ryota Murata, the 2012 Japanese Olympic gold medalist Arum co-promotes, challenging world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders. “We’re talking about the fight if Saunders doesn’t fight Canelo [Alvarez] in May,” Arum said.