Bob Arum keeps politics center stage at ‘No Trump Undercard’ presser
Bob Arum never had so much fun running an undercard press conference.
With Donald Trump descending on New York for the April 19 primary, Arum, 84, was licking his lips in Las Vegas on Thursday, readying himself for his “No Trump Undercard” press conference at the MGM Grand.
“Hey, let’s keep it down. This is not a Trump rally,” a tanned and energetic Arum said as he took the podium, and he was off, playing the part of emcee, jokester and political activist as he introduced the HBO PPV undercard of mostly Hispanic fighters under Saturday’s main event between Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley.
And that was the point: Arum, who celebrated his 50th anniversary in the sport last month, constructed the undercard as a counterpoint to Trump’s contentious talk of illegal immigration and of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The three fights signal to people all over the world that these fighters stand for something special,” said Arum, as he delivered a short sermon to kick off the press conference. “And they stand for equality and justice for the Hispanic people, both documented citizens and undocumented, who have to be treated fairly and with justice because they contribute so much to the United States.”
Others got into the political act, too, as manager Egis Klimas told the audience he’s a Hillary Clinton supporter. WBO president Paco Valcarcel admitted he was a Republican. “But I’m not for Trump, OK? We have to stop him,” he told the audience. But it was Arum who had the most to get off his chest.
“And if you say, ‘What are you doing talking about what is essentially a political and social issue in the promotion of a boxing event?’, I say, ‘Why not?'” Arum remarked. “Because the people who are involved in boxing feel deeply about these issues.” He added, “It’s for us in the sport of boxing to speak out at this time, when we have a presidential candidate who’s spewing the hate that Mr. Trump is in this country.”
Arum introduced undefeated Jose Ramirez, a former 2012 U.S. Olympian whose back-story resonates with Arum’s talk of solidarity with Hispanic fighters. Ramirez, who takes on Manny Perez on Saturday, is the son of Mexican immigrants who worked in the fields of Central Valley, California. Ramirez (16-0, 12 KOs) is an advocate for the California Latino Water Coalition that is fighting for water rights for farmers and in resolving the state’s water crisis.
“I want to continue to be a good example for those first-generation young men out there,” Ramirez said. “I want to continue representing my last name, ‘Ramirez,’ with my family, the Mexican community, the Hispanics, the immigrants. I want to continue to support them and to represent all the different races with honor.”
Undefeated Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez, who faces former world champion Evgeny Gradovich on Saturday in a featherweight bout, thanked Arum for the message the “No Trump Undercard” provided. “We really don’t want him as a president,” Valdez said on stage.
The co-feature pits WBO super middleweight champion Arthur Abraham (44-4, 29 KOs) against Mexico’s Gilberto Ramirez (33-0, 24 KOs). The 6-foot-2 Ramirez spoke powerfully of what it would mean to win a world title.
“I am living my dream,” Ramirez said. “When I began in my career, I dreamed all the time of this moment, with a fight with a champion in a big hotel. This is the moment. It’s my time and I want to take it, and I want to enjoy this Saturday when I walk to the ring with my flag and all of the support of my people.”
When all the fighters had spoken, Arum got up one last time from his seat alongside the podium to make his closing remarks. After nearly an hour, Arum finally sounded a little drained from all the railing against Trump. He thanked everyone for listening. The “No Trump Undercard” had ended, though it’s doubtful that Arum will stop circulating his message. Attempts to reach the Trump campaign for comment were not immediately successful.
“These are really important issues,” Arum said earlier in the presser. “Boxing is a sport. It’s fun and games. It’s on the sport page. But we in boxing have an obligation to be heard and to not allow our country to sink into fascism and demagoguery, which we’ve been witnessing for the past few months.”