EXCLUSIVE: Bob Arum likens retired Manny Pacquiao to Muhammad Ali
Among the many people Manny Pacquiao thanked during a heartfelt video he released on Wednesday in which he announced his retirement from boxing after a legendary 26-year-year career was Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.
Arum was Pacquiao’s longtime promoter, and they were close for many years. Arum promoted most of Pacquiao’s biggest fights, beginning with the first of his four epic battles with Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004 when Arum was actually Marquez’s promoter while Pacquiao was still with Murad Muhammad.
Soon after, Arum became Pacquiao’s official promoter and promoted or co-promoted 24 of his 25 fights from 2005 through 2017.
Arum, who said he watched the video, said he was happy that Pacquiao decided to retire, an announcement that came a little over a month after he lost a decision challenging WBA welterweight titlist Yordenis Ugas on Aug. 21 in Las Vegas and less than two weeks after Pacquiao made the expected announcement that he would run for president of the Philippines, where he currently serves as a senator.
“That it was about time and that he, in my opinion, will make a great, great president of the Philippines,” Arum exclusively told Word Boxing News about his first thought when he heard that Pacquiao had retired.
“We’re not playing around. The Philippines is in trouble. They’ve had a corrupt leadership for as long I can remember, and Manny Pacquiao, one thing about him, is he’s honest. He has integrity, and he has a burning desire to do well for his people, and I believe that he would be a great leader in the country.
“Now, true, he lacks some education, but he has a great ability to learn and as a politician, I think he will be a real breath of fresh air.”
Pacquiao’s agenda in running for president is to focus on lifting the downtrodden out of poverty. He has donated millions of his own money to assist the poor. Arum said he believes Pacquiao’s desire to help people by becoming president was far more important to him than having any more fights.
“A hundred percent,” Arum said. “It’s not ego, it’s not to enrich himself. It’s the desire to help his people, and it’s genuine. I would risk everything on that. I am absolutely sure that I have read him right.”
Although Pacquiao set many boxing records, such as being the only fighter to win world titles in eight weight classes, being the only fighter to claim the lineal championship in five divisions, and being the only fighter to hold a world title in four decades, Arum said he will ultimately be remembered for his work as a humanitarian.
“When you get somebody like Manny Pacquiao, as great a fighter as he was, you don’t focus on (his boxing). The focus is on his other attributes,” Arum said. “What a wonderful, caring human being he is. It’s almost like (Muhammad) Ali. When people talk to me about Ali, they talk about his speed, and this and that, and I really begin to tune them out. For me, Ali means so much more. Same thing with Pacquiao. I don’t want to demean what he accomplished in the ring because it was great, but for me, that’s already faded away.”
Arum’s introduction to boxing promotion was putting on Ali’s heavyweight title defense against George Chuvalo in Toronto in 1966. Arum would ultimately promote 27 of Ali’s fights, and he remains close to his family to this day.
Of all the fighters Arum has promoted during his 55 years in the business, he said the only one that compares to Ali in terms of his iconic status and the work he did for people outside the ring is Pacquiao.
“Nobody else comes close,” Arum said.
As for Pacquiao’s many memorable fights, Arum said there are two bouts that stand out to him more than any other.
The first was his shocking eighth-round demolition of superstar Oscar De La Hoya in a major upset in their 2008 welterweight fight that sent the Golden Boy into retirement. The other came two fights later when Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) thrashed Miguel Cotto in a 12 round knockout to win his first welterweight world title in 2009.
“The De La Hoya fight because the repercussions of taking that fight,” Arum said. “Remember, they passed a resolution in the Philippines congress that they shouldn’t let him leave the country because Manny Pacquiao was gonna be led to slaughter. I had never, ever seen an outcry so much against a particular fight. And then what happened? The outcry should have been from De La Hoya.
“That fight and the Cotto fight were two of the fights that stick in my mind. Cotto was the naturally bigger guy and was a very, very good fighter then and afterwards, and Manny took him apart. That and the De La Hoya fight are his two greatest performances.”
Bob Arum and Manny Pacquiao parted ways after Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Jeff Horn in Horn’s hometown of Brisbane, Australia, in 2017. Even though most thought Pacquiao had clearly won the fight, he didn’t look very good. He would go on to fight four more times.
“We always remained friends,” Arum said. “We went our separate ways because after the Horn fight, I really didn’t think he should fight anymore. I wasn’t as enthused about promoting him as I had been before. And then certainly, because of the reaction of the public, I wasn’t up to guaranteeing him the same money I had previously.
“But there was never any animosity or anything. We kept in touch, and we talked just like normal people.”