Bob Arum is fast approaching his 92nd birthday, and as one of his few concessions to age, he moves a lot more slowly than he did even a decade earlier. Arum, a Harvard-educated attorney who served in the Department of Justice during the Kennedy Administration, is still as mentally sharp as ever.
He’s promoted many of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, including Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and, briefly, even Mike Tyson.
And while Arum can easily these days draw comparisons between fighters at say, middleweight or flyweight or lightweight, he struggles to do the same with heavyweights. That’s not his memory failing him, though, Heavyweights are so much bigger than they ever were.
Joe Louis, who was heavyweight champion throughout the 1940s, was 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and had a 76-inch reach. Rocky Marciano was heavyweight champion through most of the 1950s, and “The Brockton Blockbuster” went undefeated in his career despite being only 5-10, 190 pounds with a 67-inch reach.
Ali was the preeminent heavyweight of the 1960s and 1970s, and he was 6-3, 220 with a 78-inch reach. Larry Holmes was probably the greatest heavyweight of the 1980s, and he was 6-3, 225 with an 81-inch reach. When Riddick Bowe became undisputed champion in 1992, he ushered in the era of giants. He was 6-5, 245 and had an 82-inch reach.
In the last 10 years, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury all held the title. Wilder is 6-7, 225 with an 83-inch reach. Joshua is 6-6, 245 with an 82-inch reach. And Fury is 6-9, 270 with an 84-inch reach.
Arum is a man who is rarely at a loss for words, but when he was asked if he felt Richard Torrez Jr., had the ability to win the heavyweight title, he was briefly flummoxed. Torrez won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and is now 6-0 with six knockouts. He’ll fight Tyrell Herndon on Saturday in Rosenberg, Texas on ESPN+.
“I don’t know,” Arum said following a long pause. “I don’t know. I mean, he’s a wonderful kid, nice and polite with a great sense of humor. He has a tremendous personality. He’s almost like a comic book hero with the way he comports himself. You see him and it’s almost like he’s too good to be true. He’s got everything you want to see and has the ability to be a major, major star in this sport.
“I’m sure as he develops, he’s going to be able to beat a lot of these good quality heavyweights. But we’re in an era now where the top guys are like NBA power forwards and centers. Fury’s a monster. I don’t know how he’s going to be able to deal with those f***ing huge guys. But he can box and he can punch and he’s such a likable kid. He’s got a great head on his shoulders, too, and that gives you hope.”
Torrez lost in the Olympic finals in the super heavyweight division in Tokyo to Bakhodir Jalolov, who has recently signed with Top Rank. At the highest level of amateur boxing, Torrez was fighting more skilled opponents than he is early in his pro career while he’s learning and adapting to the professional style.
It’s had an odd impact on him, though.
“It’s kind of scary, to be honest,” Torrez said.”Fighting these guys who don’t have a name behind him and whom most people don’t know, sometimes it’s more scary than if I were fighting Jalolov again. People don’t know these guys whereas the guys I was facing in the Olympics and near the end of my amateur career were established commodities.
“It hurt to lose [in the Olympics] but when I lost, I knew that at least I’d been beaten by an Olympic gold medalist. But if I lose one of these fights, it’s like, ‘Man, Richard. What are you doing losing to a guy we’ve never heard of?’ It’s a different type of pressure.”
Torrez has racked up the knockouts early in his pro career, but he is loathe to call himself a massive puncher. He’s stopped four opponents in the first, another in the second and one in the third.
He’s a sharp puncher who relies on his speed and he said that as he moves up the ranks, that may become something of his calling card.
“I don’t think it’s the one-hitter quitter that people are going to have to worry about coming from me,” Torrez said. “There are definitely a lot of guys out there who punch harder than me. But all I’ll say is that for every one shot from them, I’ll come back with four or five.
“So I don’t think it’s the sheer power that will define me but the sheer amount of punches I’ll throw at you.”
As he progresses in his career, he’s kept an eye on unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who is 6-3, 220 pounds and a lot closer in size to Torrez than Fury. Usyk defeated Joshua twice to win the titles and is going to fight Fury for the undisputed crown later this year.
Torrez seemed a bit uncomfortable talking about his chances at the title, but said Usyk is a motivator for him.
“He’s not really a small guy at his size, but in today’s era of heavyweights, he’s considered a smaller heavyweight,” Torrez said. “And look how successful he’s been. He’s breaking down barriers and showing if you have the boxing skills and know how to put your punches together and that, that you can succeed. And in boxing history, there have been a lot of smaller guys, Joe Frazier, Marciano, who were smaller relative to their opposition. They got the job done.”
So far, so has Torres. He’s got a breezy sense of humor and fooled around as a ring card guy once. He says one of the perks of fighting for Top Rank is hanging around the Knockouts, the company’s scantily clad ring card girls.
Arum loves an underdog and he loves a fighter with heart. And it’s clear he’s quickly falling for Torrez.
“We’ll see how things go, but when people get to know him, they’re going to love him,” Arum said. “He’s such a great kid. And he’s not just a great kid, he’s a very fun fighter to watch. We’ll see where he goes and how he develops, but he’s a kid that I think people are going to be very anxious to see fight in the not too distant future.”
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