By Michael Woods
Jousting with Bob Arum is an honored tradition for whoever is heading up the boxing department at HBO, or warms a seat in those executive chairs.
Marty Glickman, David Meister, Seth Abraham, Lou Dibella, Ross Greenburg, Kery Davis, Marc Taffet, Ken Hershman, some other folks who over the span of 1973 to now have felt the lash, the sting of the Arum tongue.
It can be sharp, surprising, leave a considerable laceration and scarred tissue.
Arum is Brooklyn born, possesses a prosecutor's passion along with an ability to diagnose sore spots, and a willingness to not be burdened by a need to be liked. (He also operates from a place of distance, with a portion of his tongue in cheek, with the understanding that all this is partially theater, ephemeral matters in the grand scheme of things, which is the same end result for us all–we are rendered to a pile of dust.)
These traits were in evidence last week, when Arum trained his sites on the new guy on the throne, young gun Peter Nelson.
Nelson only likes the fights featuring the fighters he likes, that he has nurtured in his stint at the cabler, which started in 2011, when he came over from the journo side, Arum thundered.
How to deal when Arum raises the sword, and gets to slashing. Do you pull out the cutlass and duel? Up the ante, make it a musket matter, escalate the warring? Turn the other cheek? Turn the other cheek publicly but privately utilize all weapons at your disposal? Nelson was and is faced with those choices.
I chatted with Nelson Wednesday, at Madison Square Garden, after a press conference presided over by Arum finished.
Would he care to respond to Mr Arum, break out the cutlass?
Nope, and no musket either.
The 34 year old Harvard grad told me he enjoyed the presser, looks forward to continuing to monitor the upward arc of Omaha ace 140 Terence Crawford, and that he's enthused about the forthcoming slate of programming to run on HBO. “It was a great press conference,” he said, following with a suitably coherent and bland summation of the promotion.
And the Luis Ortiz, and Andre Ward, and Manny Pacquiao and Triple G and Roman Gonzalez and Khanelo events, those are going to be stellar, as well, he said.
Noted, I said. And what of those Arum comments?
Nelson's eyes twinkled. He knew the question was coming. Would he get into musket mode?
“We do everything we can to service our subscribers,” he said, “buy the fights that align with our brand, and do our best to buy everything that we possibly can.” He wants to buy great fights and show subscribers elite athletes, he said. That was and is the mission.
So, no musketeer moment then. No cutlass raised.
Too bad for me, from a clicks perspective.
But for him, grudgingly I say, because drama and conflict is so much the marrow of existence, the sage move.
Now, can I speak to his conduct back at the office? Nossir. Could he answer the Bob broadside in a less public forum and manner? Surely. But he will not provide fodder for me.
Even if I had told him that two minutes before, Arum had sarcastically referred to him as one of the “geniuses” who didn't warn to a Nicholas Walters v. Takashi Uchiyama fight as worth buying, would that have spurred Nelson to go nuclear? Or even sub nuclear? Or even mildly counter punchy? I doubt it…
Someone who knows Nelson told me he's secure in his skin, knows that he knows the business, the players, doesn't get rattled by an Arum surge of verbal volleys.
I chatted with a man who had as much experience as anyone in absorbing those Arum volleys, and asked him about the best way to handle them, and will share that man's wisdom shortly.
Check back soon, in this space…