Notes From Macau, Featuring Bob Arum, Freddie Roach And Larry Merchant

(That’s not a footprint on Freddie Roach’s chest, in case you were wondering)
MACAU — So it turns out that Macau is actually a pretty strange place to hold a big boxing event. Having never been here before, I had it in my head that it was some kind of Bizarro-Asian-Vegas. But the comparison only really holds if you’re talking about them both having lots of big casinos.
Macau, it seems, is not a place to party. It’s a place where the very serious business of gambling happens. Nobody is walking around whooping and hollering, everyone is sitting down, playing baccarat with grim determination.
Do most of the people here (the vast, vast majority of whom are mainland Chinese) realise that there’s a fight on Sunday? I don’t think so. Top Rank Promotions chief Bob Arum told me that when you break down ticket sales, the majority are going to Hong Kong Chinese and Filipinos.
There’s a ring set up in one of The Venetian’s labyrinthine corridors with a countdown to the main event (two days, 10 hours last time I looked), but apart from that it seems like business as usual.
The brawl yesterday seems to have broken things up a bit, though, and drawn a lot of press interest (which might have been the point). Tim’s blog on it was excellent and hilarious, and I think the Guardian’s Bryan Armen Graham (whose blog I contributed reporting to) also had a pretty smart take.
Below are some quotes from various people of interest (including Freddie Roach and Bob Arum, as well as Larry Merchant, who will be calling the international broadcast) that I’ve bumped into around the place:
Freddie Roach on Rios
He says he’s not a punching bag because he hits back. Well, defensively that’s the only difference between him and a punching bag. I’m not impressed. Defensive wise, a punching bag might be better than him.
Alvarado, the guy that Ruslan [Provodnikov] beat, Rios lost to him in a rematch. And you know, he’s not a great fighter but my guy Ruslan killed that guy. I know what Manny does to Ruslan in the gym. They work together but Manny never really tries to hurt him, he goes a little easy on him. And then Ruslan is destroying guys who beat the guy we’re fighting. I’m not impressed by this guy, by any means.
Roach on fighting in the morning
Fight day will be the same as this morning. We’ll have breakfast at seven and then have a snack, we’ll probably have the snack in the dressing room so if he feels a little hungry we’ll have that before the fight. We’ve done it before –the thing is, once the bell rings I don’t think it really matters.
Alex Ariza on the brawl
I wasn’t calling Freddie a faggot, I was talking to the guy behind him. It was the heat of the moment. Sometimes things just slip out. Did I mean to target any particular group? No.
Ariza on Roach
He’s a fighter. He’s got a temper and when he gets that look in his eye, I’ve seen him hit people. He’s a former professional boxer; I’m just a strength and conditioning coach.
Brandon Rios on Roach’s head games
I think he’s picked the wrong person to try and get under their skin. You can’t get under my skin easy. Whatever happened, it happened. It didn’t involve me and I’m glad. It’s not like he came to me and did it. I’m cool man. It was between the trainers.
Rios, rather defensively, after I asked him whether he sweating off  weight on the elliptical in the gym brawl video
Why can’t you be on the elliptical, man? I was just finishing the work out, man. It’s just like when you go for a run, you can’t just stop, you need to do a little cool down. I was cooling down, that was it.
Bob Arum on his plans in Asia
In the future China is going to be a major market for us. We’re already planning four big events for next year, three in Macau and one in Singapore. And eventually we’ll be able to stage events in the mainland but we’re going to go very cautiously there because there are so many regulations and it’s not clear whether professional boxing is permitted, or maybe it is permitted so we have chinese partners, the guys who represent Zou Shiming and [basketballer] Yao Ming, and they’re exploring it. We’re hoping to do some fights next year on a smaller basis in places like Shanghai and Beijing.
On February 22nd we’ve come up with a concept and we’re going to call it Ring Of Gold, we’re going to have three Olympians who won medals in the London Olympics: Zou Shiming, Ryoto Murata the middleweight from Japan and Egor Mekhontsev from Russia fight on that card, two world title fights and then three Chinese bouts and that’ll be the card February 22nd.
Arum on worries that the location will affect the pay-per-view buy rate
Well obviously that’s a concern. It was a concern in ’75 when Ali and Frazier fought because then we did closed circuit in arenas and so forth. Learning from that we know what kind of problems we’re facing and how we can deal with those problems.
Arum on what’s next for Tim Bradley
We don’t know.  Tim Bradley is always on the short list to fight Manny Pacquiao if Pacquiao wins. Maybe the Mayweather people come to us and are willing to do a fight with Bradley.*
*When I pressed Arum as to whether he’d really do business with Mayweather, Showtime and Al Haymon he said “Sure” and chuckled. Make of that what you will.
Arum on Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux
I’m not a puppeteer. Nonito won’t shut up about doing a rematch with Rigondeaux and if a fighter presses me about what he wants I’m not going to stand in the way. I don’t think anyone in his right mind would want to fight Rigondeaux.
We have a big problem. The people at HBO hate Rigondeaux because they consider his performances boring. You have to have an appreciative eye for the art of boxing to like a Rigondeaux fight but it is generally not exciting. The guy is so talented it is incredible, but it is not good television watching. They’re in the business of giving good television to their subscribers. So I have very big difficulties getting him dates on premium television. That’s the problem.
Arum on what’s next for Miguel Cotto
We would be very happy to match him this spring for a big event against Sergio Martinez. That’s what we’re working on.
Larry Merchant on the brawl
It was an inflammatory mix of bad blood and testosterone. There is bad blood between Roach and Ariza. Freddie has a dim view of Ariza, who manages to put himself front and centre when that’s not his job. There was some confusion about the time in the gym, as far as I can tell. But the point is that there’s a history of these guys not loving each other.
Everything that goes on before a fight is a kind of dominance ritual, in which everyone is trying to show that they’re the boss, they can dictate the terms and that’s going to carry over into the fight. It’s manifested in different ways and this particular way is unique in my knowledge.
Merchant on Zou Shiming
He’s a very rich character in terms of… that he’s been the spark that’s brought big time boxing to Macau and he’s been paid enormous sums of money for start-up fights as a professional. He was also paid a lot of money to remain a so-called amateur. So whether he has the skills to become a good or top pro, there are questions about that because of his age because of his age. But we’ll see how much he wants it. In the meantime he can make more money than most people on most of the cards he’ll be on just by showing up.