JANUARY 13, 2007
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said the other day he would make Manny Pacquiao bigger than ever in the next two to three years as the Filipino boxing icon displays his A-side in the ring.

"Mannyís always been the B-side in pay-per-view fights," said Arum. "Now, Manny will be the star of the show."

Pacquiao recently signed Arum to a four-year contract as his promoter.

"When Iím done, if I do my job right, Manny will be as big as Oscar de la Hoya or even bigger," said Arum, quoted by Michael Marley in boxing "I want to develop him as a top tier attraction, a real superstar in our sport. Oscar is the best example of the status that I want Manny to reach. Oscar and those guys can say what they want but itís Top Rank that made Oscar a superstar and they all know it."

Arum said Pacquiao is similar in many ways to Muhammad Ali, the greatest fighter he has ever promoted.

In 1975, Arum stepped out of an airplane with Ali in Manila after a flight from the US. He stayed two weeks leading up to Aliís bout against Joe Frazier at the Araneta Coliseum.

Last month, Arum flew from General Santos City to Manila with Pacquiao and they stepped out of the airplane together at the airport. It was reminiscent of Arumís walk with Ali over 30 years ago.

"When I was walking with Manny at the airport, I saw the fans come up to him," Arum told The STAR. "It was the same adulation with Ali. Everyone wants to be in Mannyís aura just like it was during Aliís time. Manny has a similar type of attraction to people. Itís hard to define what it is but you know itís there. People want to reach out and touch him."

Arum said although their fighting styles are different, Ali and Pacquiao have the same heart and mind.

"Aliís style was akin to a long line of African-American fighters, going back to Sugar Ray Robinson and onward to Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather," continued Arum. "Ali was a heavyweight practitioner. Pacquiao fights more like a Hispanic, like Roberto Duran, very exciting. He comes in to take a punch or two just to be able to give back. Both have an aura about them. People want to get close to them. It was their friendliness, charisma and warmth that brought people flocking to them."

Arum was in town with Don King for the "Thrilla in Manila." He was back for six weeks in 1976 on First Lady Imelda Marcosí invitation.

"Mrs. Marcos awarded the countryís gaming rights to me so I was back with a British professional group to start the operations then I found out President Marcos had another group in mind to handle the project," said Arum. "I quietly left when I realized there was a problem."

Arum didnít return to the country until last December to attend the baptism of Pacquiaoís daughter Mary Divine Grace and celebrate his 28th birthday in General Santos City.

In 1966, Arum made his promotional debut with Aliís fight against George Chuvalo for Main Bout Inc., forerunner of Top Rank. He also promoted Aliís bouts against other opponents, including Henry Cooper, Brian London, Karl Mildenberger, Cleveland Williams and Ernie Terrell. In 1978, Arum staged four world title fights ó headlined by the Ali-Leon Spinks rematch ó at the New Orleans Superdome.

"Iíve been in the boxing business now for 40 years," said Arum. "Iíve promoted some of the greatest fighters in history. I never had a contract to promote (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler and Erik Morales but I did their biggest fights."

Arum said Pacquiaoís star is shining at the right time.

"Todayís heavyweights stink," said Arum. "All they do is grab and hold. The interest of boxing fans has gone over to the lighter weights because the fighters are more exciting with their non-stop punching."

Arum said he has always known Filipino fighters to be brave and tough.

"I knew Flash Elorde and I loved the way he fought," said Arum who lives in Las Vegas. "In California, there were lots of Filipino fighters so I knew they were good." When Arum was in Manila in 1975, he saw several top Filipino contenders in the "Thrilla" undercard like Rolando Navarrete.

Arum said he will make Pacquiao "a crossover star."

"Manny is learning more English," Arum told Marley. "I want him to be able to go on big shows like Jay Leno and do a lot of other things. The focus is on the US. Heís got to become a crossover star so that people who donít follow boxing know who he is. That is my goal and that is what the game plan will be directed to doing."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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