MANNY PACQUIAO is still the meal ticket of Top Rank Promotions, but you can say American Bob Arum is already laying the groundwork for the Pac-Man’s successors.
The last few weeks have actually seen the rise of two potential heirs. On February 19, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire moved to a higher tax bracket with a devastating second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel for the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization bantamweight title. A few weeks later, American slugger Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios halted Miguel Acosta in 10 rounds for the World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight title.
Donaire is being lined up for a May 28 showdown with WBA bantam king Anselmo Moreno of Panama while Rios is mulling a showdown with Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera.
Arum, who graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1956, worked in the United States Attorney’s Office before stumbling into the boxing business in 1962. An expert in taxation, Arum was then investigating reports that heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson and his lawyers were planning to ship a hefty amount of cash to Switzerland after the fight with Sonny Liston in Chicago. With the money safely tucked away overseas, only then would tax negotiations proceed. It was not illegal, just shrewd, but somehow the incident opened Arum’s eyes to the big money involved in boxing. After beating Patterson to the punch (no money got out of the US as Arum and his battalion of internal revenue agents collected the taxes before Liston knocked out Patterson in one round), Arum left the government service and promoted his first boxing fight in 1966.
Arum, 79, has since promoted a slew of huge names in the sport, champions like Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Alexis Arguello, Oscar De La Hoya and George Foreman. Pacquiao is now carrying the torch for Top Rank Promotions, which the Filipino has been doing the last few years or since De La Hoya left the group, but make no mistake, new talents are on the verge of making their mark.
For over a year now, ABS-CBN Sports has been showcasing Arum’s fistic discoveries in the program ABS-CBN Presents Top Rank Boxing (on its new timeslot, every Sunday afternoon, Studio 23). Three tyros have been constantly turning heads¯featherweight Roberto Marro¬quin, super featherweight Diego Magdaleno and super lightweight Jose Benavidez Jr.
Benavidez, 18, has emerged as Top Rank’s most intriguing prospect. The Arizona native compiled an amateur record of 120-5 and won the US National Golden Gloves title at age 16. At age 17, despite being a year short of the age requirement, Benavidez was issued a professional boxing license in Nevada because of his exceptional talent. Benavidez turned professional last year and has since compiled a record of 10-0 with 9 knockouts. The 6’0” Benavidez offers blinding handspeed and a solid body attack. He had been trained by Freddie Roach until the relationship between the two soured late last year. If he keeps his head in place, Benavidez is bound for greatness.
Dallas native Marroquin, 19-0, 14 knockouts, won six U.S. national amateur titles before turning pro in 2008. The baseball player-turned-boxer is being trumpeted as the “little De La Hoya” by Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler. Marroquin, who has been a fixture in the undercard of Pacquiao’s fights, offers good movement and above-average power.
Las Vegas resident Magdaleno, 18-0 with 6 knockouts, also has a solid amateur background, winning 116 out of 130 amateur fights. He turned professional in 2007 and is slowly getting into a punching groove, having stopped his last three foes. A converted southpaw, Magdaleno loves to throw punches in bunches, although doubts persist on his power.
Pacquiao remains the king of the ring in Top Rank, but nothing is etched in stone and a few years from now the Filipino will archive the gloves and take his place in the pantheon of greats. By then, Benavidez and the rest of Top Rank’s youngsters will be more than ready to take over the spotlight.
ED C. TOLENTINO
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