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Pacquiao vs Rios: Is Bob Arum Boxing's Richard Nixon?

Lee Cleveland Updated
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In 1972, United States President Richard Nixon visited the People's Republic of China (PRC) to open diplomatic relations between the two nations.

The American president's historic visit and subsequent efforts indisputably:

(a) Ended 25 years of isolation between the United States and the People's Republic of China and

(b) Resulted in establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1979 which paved the way to the strong economic ties that bind the two countries today.

Nixon's staffers worked exhaustively behind the scenes to ensure the president's visit would have the biggest possible impact on television audiences in the U.S. And, as according to planned, media coverage was extensive and extremely positive. 

Many still consider Nixon's visit to China the most important American summit meeting ever.

Today, Top Rank's Bob Arum, perhaps the most powerful man in boxing, seeks to mimic in professional boxing what President Nixon arguably achieved in diplomacy some 41 years ago.

The 81 year old promoter sees China as a future pay-per-view (PPV) gold mine and is attempting to open the Chinese markets to boxing and bridge the wide gap between China and the Sweet Science.

And while there have been a few sporadic foreign boxing and MMA fight cards that have recently taken place in China, Mr. Arum is seeking something much more. He's looking to cultivate a long-term relationship between Top Rank and the PRC.

Given China's population of roughly 1.34 billion, if Arum can achieve what Nixon did, it would be a major win for the sport, the Chinese and, of course, the promotional entity Top Rank.

U.S. President Richard Nixon, right, meets with Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing, February 21, 1972.

Nixon Mao 1972-02-29

What better way to integrate boxing into Chinese culture than showcase Manny Pacquiao, arguably the world's most popular active athlete, in a must-win situation against an elite and exciting but lesser-experienced opponent in Brandon Rios?

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The fighter dubbed 'PacMan' is an international star and folk hero who fights in a crowd-pleasing style and hails from a country relatively close to the Mainland.

Mr . Arum is making the right choice by allowing the Chinese to watch Pacquiao vs Rios for free. It's a good investment and if the Chinese like what they see, Top Rank believes PPV boxing could eventually flourish – or at least survive – there at $5-$6 per buy in the not-too-distant future.

"You do 20 Million USD in sales and that's $100 Million USD in revenue," asserted Arum.

Pacquiao Must Win?
In order for Arum to sell Pacquiao to the Chinese, the superstar has to win – and decisively. Boxing can do without another controversy when Pacquiao faces Rios November 23rd. A PacMan loss or disputed win will only add more obstacles in successfully marketing Manny Pacquiao, and the sport itself, to China. After all, boxers on three-fight losing streaks aren't very marketable.

pacquiao rios china

Can Rios Resonate in China?
Stranger things in sports have happened but it's hard to see the Chinese warming up to Rios should he upset Mnny. He's an American of Mexican descent who lives in a far away land that's much different than China. To the Chinese, the extraordinarily resilient Rios is probably a nameless, faceless fighter from the other side of the world.

He is the proverbial opponent; the fighter who is suppossd to lose.

Will the Chinese, in 2014 or 2015, shell out $5 to see Rios in a PPV against a foe who is not Manny Pacquiao?

Maybe it's possible but it's probably not likely.

Nevertheless, Rios also fights in a fan-friendly style and is extremely engaging outside the ring, albeit in a different way than Manny. China may warm up to Brandon after all. 

Will Bob Arum be doing this the morning after Pacquiao vs Rios?

richard nixon barack obama

Nixon, Kissinger/ Pacquiao and Arum
Just as President Nixon was dependent on his trusted sidekick, then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, to help initiate and facilitate Sino-American diplomatic relations 40+ years ago, Bob Arum is depending on Manny Pacquiao to sign, seal and deliver his opponent in November.

And while an electrifying Pacquiao win won't guarantee China's interest in or acceptance of the Sweet Science, it certainly may be a first step in the right direction.

(Quotes courtesy of L.A. Times)


Pacquiao vs Rios
Date: November 23rd
Location: Macao, China
Time: 9PM ET, 6PM PT
Broadcast: HBO PPV (U.S.)

China Facts

(Source: Random Facts)

  • Boxing was banned there from 1959 to 1986

  • The Boxer Rebellion between 1898 and 1901 in northern China, launched by the "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" (Yihequan or I-ho-ch'uan), got its name because its members practiced weaponless martial arts as well as secret rituals. Westerns called it "shadow boxing" and the members "Boxers."

  • One in every five people in the world is Chinese

  • Fortune cookies are not a traditional Chinese custom. They were invented in 1920 by a worker in the Key Heong Noodle Factory in San Francisco.

  • Despite its large size (4th largest land area in the world) all of China is in one time zone.

  • Many historians assert the sport of soccer (football in Europe) originated in China around 1000 B.C.

  • Ping-pong, which started in Britain and is known there as "table tennis," is one of the most popular games in China.

  • Stamp collecting is the most popular hobby

  • Martial arts are practiced throughout China and were largely developed from ancient farming and hunting methods

  • The bicycle is the primary transportation for millions of Chinese


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