Arum hoping for Thanksgiving payoff

Updated: November 24, 2004, 2:44 PM ET
By Steve Kim | MaxBoxing.com

As millions of people celebrate the Thanksgiving weekend, Bob Arum is hoping at least several hundred thousands will buy his pay-per-view event featuring the rubber match between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales.

Amidst all the football and Christmas sales that will take place on this four-day weekend, the two Mexican rivals will slug it out on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Arum has done a multitude of big pay-per-view events, but never one on Thanksgiving weekend.

"I have never really done such a big event," he said. "I think Don King did a big Chavez fight over Thanksgiving weekend with big success. And when we debated whether to go on Thanksgiving weekend we determined two things: one, that as far as the live gate was concerned, that right after Thanksgiving -- the dinner, in the evening -- the town started getting jammed. So we know it's one of the biggest weekends of the year in Las Vegas.

"And then we looked at the sports schedules and we saw that Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon were chock full with football games. But by Saturday night there was really very little and that Saturday night was a huge movie night. And so we figured there would be a big audience for pay-per-view because people would be looking for things to do."

By this time, college football is winding down, and it's traditional "rivalry weekend" has already taken place the week before. And this upcoming weekend is indeed the kickoff to the holiday movie season.

"So we said, 'Hey, it may very well be that we've lucked out on a date and we've picked the best date.' We knew Jermain Taylor was thinking of going Dec. 4, we ultimately ended up doing a Showtime fight on Dec. 4. And so we figured the 27th was a good date. Mosley and Wright were fighting on the 20th, so we were satisfied that we would do well on the 27th."

While it seems that having a such a big event on pay-per-view so late in the year goes against conventional wisdom, Arum points out that the bout between Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas, which took place in the first weekend of December in 2000, did extremely well.

"You can't go late in December, but if you go early enough, it does OK," he says.

Top Rank is pulling out all the stops to make sure that their event gets plenty of coverage.

"We invited all the press and their families to come to Vegas and Thursday we're doing a Thanksgiving dinner for the press that Wolfgang Puck -- the famous chef -- is catering."

Speaking from personal experience, the best way to attract the media is putting out a free spread. And usually stale hot dogs and nachos are good enough to satisfy our hunger.

"We're going to have a great time, we already have more than 180 people coming to the dinner and we're looking forward to it."

According to Top Rank's director of public relations, Lee Samuels, interest in this event has been high.

"This is really amazing," says Samuels, who has been in contact with Brener-Zwikel, who is handling media requests for Morales-Barrera III. "I just contacted BZA and my question was, 'What's the breakdown of the media compared to recent De La Hoya fights and recent Morales fights?' "

And according to Samuels, this fight compares favorably.

"For the De La Hoya fight against Sturm, 334 working press. For De La Hoya versus Hopkins, we had 443," Samuels said last Tuesday. "Right now, as of yesterday, we had 278 credentialed for Morales-Barrera, which is going to be Morales' all-time high. He did 260 for the (Carlos) Hernandez fight. But of the 278, I know we got 15 more today."

You can usually gauge the general public interest by just how filled the media section is during fight night. Samuels says he is encouraged by the amount of national media that is coming in for the weekend. As usual, Arum is counting on his usually loyal Latin fan base to push this event.

"We did for the second Morales-Barrera fight, which was on pay-per-view, 300,000 homes and Mark Taffet (of HBO Pay-Per-View) and the cable systems and the satellite providers say that we have a good shot of 400,000 on this fight," he says. "If we do anything like that, obviously we'll be very pleased. We know the gate's doing very well. We've already passed $2 million in revenue at the gate and we're on our way to $3 million.

"So we think we're going to do very, very well."

And for that, he'll give thanks.