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Pacman Gay Flap Challenges Arum

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Pacman Gay Flap Challenges Arum

By Bill Dwyre

Unlike many of the boxers he has promoted, Top Rank’s Bob Arum never goes down for a ten count.

Last week, his prized fighter and current main meal ticket, MANNY PACQUIAO, hit Arum with one of the most vicious left hooks he has ever thrown. It was a figurative punch, certainly, as well as a possible crippling shot to a fight promotion. Arum would much rather have taken a real one, directly on the chin.

Nevertheless, like everything else in his amazing 84 years on this planet and 50 years promoting boxers of varying skill and character, Arum has once again refused to stay on the canvas.

The story goes as follows:

Pacquiao told a TV interviewer in the Philippines that he was adamantly against gay marriage. If we had been paying close attention, we pretty much knew that. But he carried his opinion into characterization and foolishly elaborated that, because gay and lesbian people had sex with their like gender, they were “worse than animals,” who never did that.

That was wrong on so many levels that it is worth both shrugs of dismay and outbursts of anger in reaction. It is also inaccurate. There are many known species of animals that procreate with like gender.

It has been a week or so now. Pacquiao has given the usual non-apology apology that people give when they say something stupid and really still don’t have a grip on what they said. So they apologize to those they may have offended. That is always nice. Much nicer would be to apologize for even harboring those thoughts and for allowing yourself to verbalize such things in such a stark and distasteful way.

To be clear, Pacquiao is not a jerk. He is a decent, hard-working, rise-from-the-ashes person who is generous and caring and the last person on the face of the Earth you would expect to verbalize himself into this corner of public hell. I have covered most of his important fights, admired his patience and work ethic, even stood within feet of him that night in May of 2010, when the key precinct result came in for the Congressional spot he sought in the Philippine’s Sarangani province. He had been an urchin on the streets less than two decades before and now he was a Congressman. The look on his face that night defied description. Still does.

But a life of decency and popularity is a marathon, not a sprint. And now, Manny Pacquiao will be forced to build it all back, inch by inch, mile by mile, day by day.

The fallout has been, and will continue to be, incredibly complicated and incredibly unpredictable. None less so than in Arum’s role.

First, you need to know that Arum’s political views are so far opposite the conservative Christian ideology that influenced Pacquiao’s outburst that they aren’t even in the same universe. To say Arum is an active, practicing liberal is to say dairy cows give milk. Arum, in some ways a father figure to Pacquiao over the years, was horrified by what Pacquiao said. And Arum said he was horrified. Publicly.

One publication even interpreted his post-Pacquiao remarks with the ultimate headline of complete relationship divorce. It read: “Arum Throws Pacquiao Under the Bus.”

Currently, there is no divorce.

All the things that could have happened didn’t. Arum did not rise to high personal moral ground, did not call off the April 9 match, where Pacquiao will fight his alleged swansong bout against TIM BRADLEY at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. If you were waiting for Arum to say he could no longer promote a fighter whose political and personal philosophies turn his stomach, think again. If you were waiting for Arum to demand from Pacquiao some reparations to gay and lesbian causes, think again.

Damage control? Meetings with gay and lesbian leaders when Pacquiao arrives in the States to train in a few weeks? Carefully arranged meetings with the media to explain himself?

Arum is leaning toward none of the above.

“Damage control?” he barks. “Our damage control is to tell the damn truth, and keep telling it.”

The damn truth, according to Arum’s view, is that Pacquiao has a right to speak his views and that he has made an honest mistake, on the subject of homosexuality, in taking the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament more seriously than the Book of Corinthians in the New Testament.

“In Leviticus, if a man sleeps with a man, he should be put to death,” Arum says. “In Corinthians, a man sleeps with a man and he is a sinner, but is not put to death.”

And so, the boxing match will not be put to death. There will be sinners, and business as usual. Thanks to the Corinthians. You knew the irrepressible Arum would find a way. You just didn’t figure it would be via the Bible.

In the midst of all this, Arum also finds a way to lighten the load, ease the tension. His ability to bark and never bite is legendary. He is about as introverted as a Fourth of July fireworks show. He doesn’t rip people behind their backs, but right to their face. And then he slaps them on the back and buys them a beer.

With Arum, the show always goes on. We should have known. We also should have known that he would find a way to insert some humor, even when the subject matter is far from humorous. He is already working on his lines for the pre-match press conference.

“Yes, I’ve talked to Manny,” he says. “Got him on the phone. He was on his way out of church. I told him what he said was wrong.

“It was my sermon on the mount.”

Editor/publisher Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the thought to be impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live since 2017. He now does work for PROBOX TV, the first truly global boxing network.

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