Top Rank, Showtime back in business

Updated: December 2, 2004, 4:48 PM ET
By Steve Kim |

On the morning of the epic third clash between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales in Las Vegas, there was a press conference hosted by Top Rank to publicize Showtime's attractive triple-header on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay, which is headlined by Jose Luis Castillo's defense of his WBC lightweight title against Joel Casamayor.

It was just over a year ago that Bob Arum was in a highly publicized feud with Showtime over competing pay-per-view shows that happened to take place on the same night. Top Rank had a card from the Staples Center in Los Angeles featuring his Latin stable, led by Morales, and Showtime put on a card in Vegas that featured James Toney against Evander Holyfield.

Accusations and mud were slung from both sides as both factions claimed they were first to stake their claim on that date. Arum and Showtime had also had a previous disagreement over a failed "Latin Fury" pay-per-view series.

Well, this being boxing, the divorce did not last and the two organizations have reconciled and are in business once again.

"You see a lot of that in boxing and that's why I've learned from what James Bond says, 'Never, say never,' " said Jay Larkin, boxing czar at Showtime. "First of all, you have to examine the history of the relationships. If there was any single person who got us into boxing in 1986, it was Bob. He's the one who came to us with the concept of Showtime going into boxing. He's the one who put us there. He's the one who I personally learned my first on-hand knowledge of the boxing business from.

"So there's a lot of history there and there's always been communication," Larkin continued. "But one of the sad things about boxing is that people tend to do what's good for them at the moment and very often don't think about tomorrow and the consequences of tomorrow. So there have been a couple bumps in the road, but those bumps are behind us and we're looking ahead to once again enjoying a long, healthy relationship with Bob and Top Rank."

This being boxing, this reconciliation can go the way of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton or George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. But right now, everything is hunky-dory.

Arum, in front of the gathered media on Saturday, made it clear that he was going to walk on "both sides of the street" with his fighters. In other words, he's more than willing to take his boxers to Showtime again.

"I think they gave us the opportunity," Arum, told MaxBoxing. "What they're saying is, they want to make the best fights. They buried the hatchet; if we deliver them the best fights - in whole or in part - they're prepared to do business with us. So that's all we can ask for."

In the past, Arum was frustrated at his inability to get Castillo on HBO -- which has used him three times, twice as an opponent for Floyd Mayweather and once against Cesar Bazan -- more frequently

"It has been impossible with HBO," said Arum. "Like every time his name came up, it was like talking to a brick wall. And as far as Showtime was concerned, I was shut out. Now that I have an entree into Showtime again, he is now a very acceptable guy with Showtime. As long as he keeps winning, he has a big home at Showtime. So he's now a very, very hot commodity as far as Showtime is concerned."

It's not surprising that Castillo had problems getting on HBO considering he's a West Cast, Latin fighter not advised by Al Haymon.

So he would instead hit the "Telefutura" circuit as a welterweight, biding his time before getting a shot at regaining a lightweight title. He finally got that opportunity this past June when he faced the respected Juan Lazcano.

And he admits, getting back down to the lightweight limit was a chore.

"It was tough," he admitted to a group of reporters. "It's still tough to make 135 for me. I hope to make three more fights and then I'll go up. I don't think I'm going to be here very long."

Castillo defeated a game Lazcano over 12 rounds to capture the WBC title. And suddenly, the 135-pound class is a wide-open division with a multitude of intriguing matchups that can be made, with boxers like Juan and Julio Diaz and Diego Corrales also having title belts around their waists, and contenders like Acelino Freitas and Lazcano still in the mix.

Yet the consensus is that Castillo is the division's ruler.

"Everyone says I'm the best in the world; I feel that way, I am the best," he said through Top Rank publicist Ricardo Jimenez. "So I know I have to beat this guy, maybe convince some more people about it and show that I really am the best."

In Casamayor, he's facing a fighter with an impressive resume, but most of it coming at 130 pounds.

"I think he's one of the best ones, without a doubt," said Castillo, when asked his thoughts about the Cuban as a lightweight. "I really do believe that. I know it's going to be a tough fight. But I don't think he's going to stop me. I think I'm capable of handling him."

And he doesn't seem too concerned with Casamayor's reputation for being a bit, shall we say, chippy, in the ring.

"I wouldn't say he's a dirty fighter. He's a rough fighter," is the way Castillo described his foe. "He comes with everything, but we looked at it, we know that's a possibility, so we're ready for it."

If he gets past Casamayor, then he looks toward 2005 for bigger and better things.

"The big money fight for me would be Corrales," he says of a fight that is a distinct possibility to be made. "I think everyone would agree with that. That's the fight I should do if I want a lot of money, and the other one is Kostya Tszyu."

Sentiments which are echoed by his promoter.

"He has two ways to go -- he can fight Diego Corrales or he can fight Tszyu. We'll be guided by what is preferred by Showtime. In other words, I told Jay Larkin that we're grateful for this opportunity and that as long as we're treated well, which we expect by Showtime, that we're inclined to follow the direction of Showtime for 2005."