Common sense would dictate that a world title bout held in the neutral zone of Atlantic City between a formidable champion from Argentina and a little-known challenger from the UK is not going to cause a commotion at the box office.
But that’s the predicament that middleweight ruler Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez and unbeaten hopeful Darren Barker, who comes from the Barnet district in the outer rim of London, finds themselves in for their HBO bout this Saturday night.
Nerves in the Martinez camp are raw from criticism of this pairing. Lou DiBella blasted the media for “disrespecting” the Englishman and Sampson Lewkwicz rapped fight scribes for playing matchmaker.
But, to hear Hall Of Fame promoter Bob Arum tell it, Martinez is not being promoted and marketed properly and he can’t understand why this is.
“They’ve got the clay (to mold Martinez into stardom), they’ve got plenty to work with,” Arum said by telephone from Las Vegas Thursday night. “First, he is a real quality fighter. Second, he’s a real good looking guy. And, in the little time I’ve been around Sergio, he’s seemed to be a nice fellow. “
Obviously, things are easier if he’s Puerto Rican or Mexican but he’s not. Look back eight years with (Manny) Pacquiao, though, and people said, ‘He’s a Filipino, he’ll never be a superstar fighter in America.’ But now Pacquiao certainly is all that and an international superstar.”
Arum said he thinks DiBella is being a bit penny-wise and pound foolish in pitching Martinez to the USA masses.
“Look, I like Lou even though he sometimes shoots his mouth off,” the 79 year old head of Top Rank said. “But you’ve got to take a portion of the good fee you’re getting from HBO and pour into marketing Martinez. You take $50,000 or $75,000 out of the pot ands explain to Serrgio and Sampson why you’re spending it to market the fighter.
“I would’ve bought an ad in the Metropolitan section of the (New York) Times and put photos of Carlos Monzon and Jorge Galindez alongside Martinez. You put something on it like, ‘Look who’s fighting in Atlantic City.’ Anything to stir it up, create some buzz out there.”
HBO is reportedly forking over a $2 million fee for the Barker-Martinez show, with the lion’s share going to the champ who pulverized Tall Paul Williams and an estimated $350,000 to the British boxer.
“Martinez is a smart kid, he would get it, understand it,” Arum said. “You could do some crazy things to promote him with even $50,000. You can’t just berate the media like Lou has been doing. You got something with Martinez but you have to brand him.”
So there it is, free advice from Uncle Bob for Cousin Lee.
Surely it’s worth every penny.
Speaking of middleweight champions, Arum revealed that Kelly Pavlik, who was beaten by Martinez, spoke with manager Cameron Dunkin about arranging a sitdown concerning his fistic future. Pavlik has had substance abuse and other personal issues and made no secret of his dissatsifaction with Top Rank recently.
“I know Kelly talked to Cameron and said he was taking his family to Disneyland or Disneyworld, I forget which one. When he gets back, he said he wants to sit down with us and talk it over. “We’ll see, but he said he’s ready to dedicate himself to boxing.”