It hasn't been the best couple of weeks for Bob Arum and Top Rank. First superstar-in-the-making Nonito Donaire decided he wanted out, then 135-pound titleholder Humberto Soto figured he'd go the same route.
Undoubtedly the courts are going to be involved sorting out both situations. But while the former is the bigger loss, it's the latter that has me down right now, because Soto's departure leaves a big hole in what looked like a promising Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley pay-per-view card next month.
Top Rank's Todd duBoef told ESPN's Dan Rafael that Soto's scheduled opponent Urbano Antillon, who put on a thrilling bout with Soto the first time they fought, will likely be moved to a July date with Brandon Rios. That means two new fighters will be needed on May 7, and despite duBoef's statement that he'd like "to add something sensational," the chances of that happening on such short notice aren't very promising.
The biggest names on the Top Rank roster are too big to be in the co-feature slot. The one exception is the comebacking Kelly Pavlik, and he's already on the card. I'm as interested in anyone in seeing how Pavlik looks, but watching him fight Alfonso Lopez as a warm-up for the main event instead of Soto-Antillon II is a big step down.
The other large hurdle in the way of a replacement bout is the fact that Top Rank's reheated feud with Golden Boy Promotions takes a good number of talented boxers out of the equation for making any kind of significant fight. So now we're probably talking about finding two guys from the Top Rank stable to match against each other on short notice, and it's hard to see how we come up with a worthy substitute under those conditions.
Just scanning down the list of possible names available to Arum, the only one that really jumps out at me is Vanes Martirosyan, who had a short and easy night in his last fight in mid-March. But the Nightmare is already slated to face Saul Roman on June 4 on the fairly loaded Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sebastian Zbik undercard, and it's probably not desirable or realistic to move that match up by a month.
Maybe Arum and duBoef can pull a rabbit out of their hats and surprise us. It would be a big testament to them if they do, because promoters have been getting better at providing more value throughout pay-per-view cards, and Soto-Antillon II could have and perhaps would have stolen the show.
It just doesn't seem likely, and that's definitely a shame. Humberto, if you're reading this, I don't suppose you'd reconsider jumping ship until after May 7, eh?
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