Bob Arum at Top Rank headquarters in Las Vegas. Al Powers for ESPN
ON THE SECOND FLOOR of the events center at Resorts World Las Vegas hotel and casino, Bob Arum takes small, careful steps. He moves slowly. His eyes look toward the floor with each step, as if the gravity of his age is pulling down on his neck and shoulders with extra force. Where his thick black hair once was, the top of his scalp is now visible beneath a few strands of white hair. He’s 90 years old.
Derrick Harmon walks beside Arum. He’s always nearby. Whatever Arum needs, Harmon gets. He’s the one who, at restaurants, tells the servers they must speak on Arum’s right side because he has trouble hearing from his left ear. Part driver, part liaison, and though no one puts it in these words, you get a sense he’s part bodyguard too.Harmon’s a former boxer who went 10 rounds against Roy Jones Jr. in February 2001.
“Today it’s good,” Arum says as he walks. He’s talking about his ailing knee. Because of that knee and everything else that happens as you age, whenever he must walk long distances, like at an airport, he uses a wheelchair. At first, he hated the suggestion — it was his wife’s idea. But after swallowing a bit of his pride and knowing that would save him some pain, he agreed. “Always look at what can be made easier for you,” Arum says, as if passing along a piece of hard-earned wisdom to one of his eight grandchildren.
As he keeps walking, the second-floor promenade is empty. Just a few hotel and casino employees here and there, speaking and listening to instructions on walkie-talkies. Voices, often speaking Spanish, telling them which ballroom is ready to get cleaned and how many tables and chairs must get set up and where. It’s so quiet, relaxing even, that it’s easy to forget that just a floor below Arum is all the familiar sounds of a Las Vegas casino.
The slot machines and their bells and whistles. The televisions showing March Madness highlights and previewing that night’s Sweet 16 matchups. The loud tourists, drunk on a Thursday an hour past noon. The music playing throughout the casino, so loud it’s heard above everything else. “It’s a beautiful property,” Arum says of the newest addition to The Strip. Open less than a year, at a price of $4.3 billion, it’s the city’s most expensive resort project. The fight promoted by Arum and his company — Top Rank — will be the first one staged here.
At last, Arum enters a ballroom. There for the fight’s news conference, he sits in the front row, about 20 feet from the stage. His mind and memory are sharp, but after more than half a century of doing this, he’s been to more of these than he can remember. Most are dull, just a part of the job. You promote over 2,120 fights, as Arum has, and only the most memorable ones stay with you.
A few still make him laugh. Like the post-fight conference with James Toney, Mike McCallum and their respective teams. They all disliked each other so much, security guards did everything they could to stand between them. So deep was the dislike that Toney tried to attack the one person security never thought to protect. “He went after McCallum’s lawyer because nobody was watching him,” Arum, laughing so hard his eyes close, says of Toney. “I’ll never forget that.”
As he sits, drinking an iced coffee that Harmon brought him, waiting for the news conference to begin, boxers, managers, fans and people around the sport pay their respects. They reach out to shake his hand like he’s a Godfather figure. Once described as one of the hardest men in one of the hardest games, Arum has survived among the desperados, as he calls them, that the sport attracts. Little wonder why when some people meet him, they call him a legend. That makes him feel as uncomfortable as being called “Mr. Arum” makes him feel annoyed.
Despite that, he smiles, greets everyone, and poses for pictures. One boxer who stops to say hello is Miguel Berchelt. He’s the primary draw on this card, fighting in the main event. Berchelt, from Mexico, speaks English but not well enough to ignore an interpreter’s help. “He’s thankful for the opportunity,” the interpreter tells Arum what Berchelt just said.
In February 2021, Berchelt lost the WBC junior lightweight title. That he lost it to his friend Óscar Valdez made the pain worse. He took such a beating — the type that can take years off your career — that at the end of the ninth round, after stumbling to his corner with his right eye closing and blood dripping out his nose, Berchelt showed a moment of vulnerability that’s rare in boxing. He cursed in Spanish, like if in having that metallic taste of his own blood in his mouth, he’d come to the awful realization that he’d reached his limits.
“I’m f—ed.” That’s the loose translation of what he said on the night he lost everything he dedicated his life to get. Thirteen months later, after moving to Las Vegas hoping to salvage whatever is left of his career, Berchelt tells Arum he feels great. He’s confident the time off has helped. Life has knocked him down several times before, he says, and he’s always returned to his feet. He’s doing that once more and believes he can be a world champion again.
As Berchelt talks, Arum gives him a gentle tap on one arm. “Look good, and we’ll get you fighting for a title soon,” Arum tells him. Berchelt listens to the interpretation just to make sure he understood correctly, smiles as he nods, thanks Arum again, then walks away. After 56 years in boxing, this sort of interaction has occurred countless times between Arum and a boxer he promotes. Sometimes, as with Berchelt, he gives just a few words of encouragement. Other times, he tries to counsel them. He tells them to plan for tomorrow, because whatever it is they’re feeling today — young, rich, invincible, that belief that you will live forever — might not be there the day after tomorrow.
All that is fleeting, the old man tries to tell them.
Al Powers for ESPN
“COME ON, DUKE!” Arum screams at the television between bites of his steak and onions. It’s a few hours after the news conference. In what’s become a fight week tradition, Arum and a few of his friends and people at Top Rank gather for dinner a few nights before each fight.
Boxing’s a small world. You don’t have to do this long before you start seeing the same faces, talking to the same people. After a while, every hotel room looks the same. If the fight is in Las Vegas, they’ll often eat at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, just as they’re doing on this pleasant Thursday evening in late March.
“It started as a mob joint,” Arum says of the Italian restaurant where Martin Scorsese filmed parts of “Casino.” Through multiple marriages and lawsuits, Arum has come here for decades. So well known, he orders things that aren’t on the menu. He’s friends with the owner — whom he simply calls Freddie — and always sits at the round table, near the bar and its televisions, where he can watch whatever sport is showing.
It was a different Las Vegas when Arum first started eating here. That isn’t surprising considering that, more than anything else, reinvention is the city’s ethos. From way station where explorers could find water — even if warm — in the middle of the harsh Mojave Desert to mining town. From gambler’s haven to the fight capital of the world with just enough kitsch to make the carnage palatable. Las Vegas is a city that can’t afford to get old, at least not on The Strip. There, old casinos get imploded, the rubble cleared, then another built on top. When things are going great here, it feels like the boom will never bust.
As if following the shift of the country’s boxing epicenter from East Coast to West, Arum moved himself and Top Rank’s offices from New York City to Las Vegas in 1986. He’d grown tired of the East Coast, its taxes, and weather. Las Vegas can be sunny in March with temperatures hitting 80 plus degrees. New York can be cold, rainy and dark in April, with naked trees making you miss the other parts of the country where flowers have already bloomed. “I don’t think I could still be doing what I’m doing if I’d stayed in New York,” Arum says.
When he first moved here and started eating almost daily at Piero’s, mobsters still sat at the corner tables. Sometimes — perhaps still seeking salvation among all the sin — there’d be a priest with them. And if the same people came on consecutive nights, they’d make sure to sit in a different corner out of fear the FBI had placed bugs under yesterday’s table. In that sense, Las Vegas then wasn’t much different from how boxing was. “When I first started in the business, it was a terrible problem with all the mobsters involved in the sport,” Arum says. “Everywhere you looked there was a mob guy.”
A Harvard Law School graduate, Arum had been an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. The mob knew that, so it left him alone. And since Arum stumbled into boxing, it might’ve also thought he wouldn’t last long. The sport is full of the cadavers of those who thought they could make it but, in the end, got crushed.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but that changed my life,” Arum says of the case that brought him to boxing. The year was 1962, Robert F. Kennedy was U.S. attorney general, and Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston were about to fight. Kennedy got information that “the infamous Roy Cohn” — as Arum describes him — was promoting the fight and planned to take the money overseas, then pay Patterson on a payment plan.
That was illegal. Kennedy gave Arum, then a tax lawyer, the case. Arum seized close to $5 million from the event, then for 10 days took Cohn’s testimony. Through that, he learned everything about the boxing business, even if he’d never watched a fight.
“They had Friday night fights,” Arum remembers of his childhood in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. “I came from an Orthodox Jewish family and Friday night was the start of the Sabbath, so we weren’t permitted to put the television on.” And so, Arum never watched boxing until he became part of it.
Partly because of his experience with Cohn, a few years later, in 1965, when Arum worked at a law firm, he got asked to help with another boxing event. There, he met Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown. He told Arum that he should be a promoter instead of a lawyer. Arum told him there was only one boxer worth promoting — Muhammad Ali — and since he was taken, he had no interest. Brown said Ali didn’t have a promoter and that he could arrange a meeting.
“Why the f— would Ali want to speak to me?” Arum thought, hesitant to believe Brown. But about a month later, the meeting happened. Not long after that, in what he calls a “surreal experience,” Arum met Elijah Muhammad, who was Ali’s mentor.
“We started talking very, very interesting business for about 20, 30 minutes. And then his eyes would glaze over,” Arum says of the Nation of Islam’s late leader. “He would start with the blue-eye devils coming down his spaceship. But I let that pass and then we continue talking business.”
That talk ended with Arum as Ali’s lawyer and promoter. As promoter, Arum would pay Ali 50% of his fight’s gross profits instead of the 40% that was the standard then. That’s how the decades-long relationship between Ali and Arum began. And since there was no better way to have a firm grasp on boxing than to promote the transcendental Ali, Arum never left after that.
Bob Arum next to a photograph of himself and Muhammad Ali at Top Rank headquarters in Las Vegas. Al Powers for ESPN
“It’d be wonderful if Krzyzewski won a championship on his way out,” Arum says, still eating his steak inside what feels like a part of Las Vegas that hasn’t much changed. Duke’s playing Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. He and legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski are friends. Whether Duke wins a national championship or gets eliminated, Arum will call him with congratulations or to raise his spirits.
It’s why Arum continuously shouts for Duke throughout dinner. The close game makes him put his knife and fork down so he can watch each nerve-wrecking possession. When Texas Tech hits a 3-pointer with 13.2 seconds left, Arum is incredulous. Like he can’t believe a team from Lubbock, Texas, might be the one that ends Krzyzewski’s career. “Can you believe that?” he says as the Red Raiders pull within two points of Duke. “That was a f—ing shot from his ass.”
The men at the table, all of whom have known Arum for decades, know sports and politics always get him animated. Friends who, whenever they tell stories of Arum, will mimic his gruff voice. Most of those stories end with Arum losing his cool, with a punchline that has him screaming some variation of “What the f— is this s—?!”
They’ve all been around boxing for most of their lives. Boxing lifers for whom saying, “The kid can fight,” might be the highest compliment they can give. They talk of their excitement for upcoming events. Of being at Wembley Stadium to watch Tyson Fury — promoted by Top Rank — defend his heavyweight title fight on April 23. Fury, who Arum calls the best talker and self-promoter since Ali, won that fight. He knocked out Dillian Whyte in the sixth round in front of 94,000 screaming fans. (Next up for Top Rank is the star power of Shakur Stevenson against Oscar Valdez on April 30.)
Back at dinner, the men laugh at the absurd side of boxing. They tell the story of the cutman pronounced dead after suffering a heart attack during a fight. A few weeks later, they saw him working the corner, trying to keep a boxer from bleeding too much.
They talk about the dark side too. They’ve been around enough hurtful endings that they try to keep their relationships with boxers as much about business as possible. Sometimes they can’t. Sometimes they — these grown men — cry like babies while watching an old boxer get pummeled.
The game ends. Duke wins. Arum relaxes a bit. If they make it that far and if his schedule allows, he’ll go see his friend coach Duke in the Final Four. Unlike Krzyzewski, Arum isn’t ready to retire. He still loves the show. It makes no sense, Arum says, to walk away when there are people who pay thousands of dollars to watch fights from where he sits for free.
“Who’s the superstar you have there next to you?” a patron, passing the table on his way out of Piero’s, asks Arum. He’s asking about Harmon, who looks surprised that anyone would refer to him as that. Though he last fought 14 years ago, Harmon has kept his athletic build. He has the facial characteristics of someone who did that for a living. That never goes away. The once-sharp edges around his brow and eyes rounded from so many punches. The knuckles swollen and calloused, sometimes deformed.
“That’s Derrick Harmon,” Arum says, breaking his attention from the television. “He fought Roy Jones Jr. and got the s— beat out of him.”
Louder and longer than anyone else at the table, Harmon laughs. Like just about everyone else who’s ever made their living fighting, he has a confidence that isn’t of the normal sort. It’s hard to describe it, but it’s in the way he walks. Like no matter his height, he stands taller than everyone else. It’s a confidence that comes from knowing he fought and won in those hardscrabble Las Vegas casinos.
Far from luxurious, these casinos are in the dangerous side of town, that, after outliving that excitement of being new, got old and left behind. The side of town were Las Vegas boxers, still working their way up, live. Before the sun rises, you can see them running among fiends who seem a lifetime away from a good night’s sleep. You do that, and it’s easy to laugh at a joke made at your expense.
“That was good,” Harmon says between laughter. He’s wiping tears from his eyes.
BESIDES THE PHYSICAL change the years bring, Arum doesn’t think age has made him more of anything. Not even nostalgic. Still, he often thinks about the past but more because those were fun and amusing times with athletes and personalities who’ve been part of his life. Among them, John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Vince McMahon, Evel Knievel — whom he calls the most chaotic person he’s ever dealt with — and Imelda Marcos, just to name a few.
There are fascinating stories galore, like when, in 1971, NBA great Wilt Chamberlain almost fought Ali. The legendary Cus D’Amato would train Chamberlain. The fight would be at Houston’s Astrodome. And there was even a news conference ready to announce the fight between the superstars.
“Don’t start needling him,” Arum told Ali while waiting for Chamberlain to arrive at the news conference. “I need him to sign the contract.”
Chamberlain, who was negotiating another contract with the Lakers, a long-term deal, finally arrived. Because he was 7-foot-1, he ducked as he walked through the door.
“As he does that, Ali yells, ‘TIMBBBEEERRRR!'” Arum remembers. “And Chamberlain says something to his lawyer. They ask if they can go into a private room and make a call. I subsequently learned that the call was to [Lakers owner] Jack Kent Cooke where Chamberlain agreed to the long-term contract. Goodbye, fight.”
One could write a book and tell the better part of the past century of United States history through Arum’s life. You live that long and, with time, the deadly serious can turn funny. Like when he said he heard that Don King, his chief promoting rival for years, planned to have him killed — an allegation that King denies.
A U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, where Arum once worked, called to tell him they had information that his life was in danger.
“Who is it?” Arum asked.
The attorney told him he couldn’t say.
“So why the f— are you calling me?!” Arum responded.
Through an FBI agent, Arum found out it was King. He took the threat so serious that for days after, every day, he changed his walking route to work. When it all got settled with the help of a criminal lawyer who’d represented mob guys, King called Arum. King laughed and told him he hadn’t been serious.
The two last spoke on Arum’s 90th birthday. King, who is three months older than Arum, called to wish him well and tell him he was hosting a dinner in his honor. They both found it funny that they — two of the last living important links to the golden age of boxing in this country, from Ali to Tyson — had lived this long.
“We communicate, but not all the time,” Arum says of King. “I mean, he infuriates me now, only because of the politics. He’s such a Trump guy.”
Live long enough and you eventually make amends with those who were your blood rivals. Or maybe you won’t.
“You can’t help it,” Arum responds when asked about his critics. There have been plenty of people he’s fallen out with — boxers, promoters, heads of sanctioning organizations. Relationships spoiled over money, competition, disagreements, or any of the infinite other things around boxing. “You get in a sport that has such high visibility, and has very few barriers of entry,” Arum says, “the fact that you would get a lot of bad publicity comes with the territory.”
Manny Pacquiao and promoter Bob Arum stand victorious after winning the IBO light welterweight title vs. Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas. John Iacono /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
“THEY’RE GETTING YOUNGER and I’m getting older,” Arum says of the boxers he promotes. Decades ago, he had a closer relationship with some fighters he worked with. Muhammad Ali. “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Marvin Hagler. Oscar De La Hoya. Even if Arum was a little older than them, they were friends. They played cards. They ate dinner at his house. They interacted with Arum so often that even his wife, Lovee, has a favorite boxer; George Foreman, another old guy whom she calls a very sweet man. Married since 1991, Arum is her second husband, and Lovee is his second wife.
“The fighters now, they’re the age of my grandchildren,” Arum says. “It is what it is, and it can’t be changed.” He’s pragmatic about aging, talking while sitting behind the desk of his office surrounded by a few mementos of the past. Photos of Arum next to boxers — all now older, some no longer living — back when they were young. “I can’t make myself a contemporary of these young people, because I’m just not.”
That’s what happens when you age within a sport ruled inside the ring by those who are young. Where fighting experience is valuable but there’s hardly ever been anything like the advantage of youth. That ability to punish your body and know it’ll bounce back. That naivete of thinking that’ll never change. That lack of life experience that makes you overlook how truly long Arum has lived.
While watching men fight, he’s seen the world change. How as the salaries in other sports — namely football but also basketball — increased exponentially, it inadvertently killed the country’s heavyweight division. “They have to choose between football, where there are cheerleaders and all the glory, or go into smelly gyms and start training … and sort of dealing in obscurity,” Arum says of the big, physically skilled kids who, decades ago, dreamed of being heavyweight world champions.
Arum remembers how as the heavyweight division suffered, and the newspaper industry sank, boxing writers treaded water for a bit before they, too, went under. How the country was once full of great fight towns. Detroit, St. Louis, Des Moines, Iowa, and countless others. Those fight towns have all but disappeared. “There’s no local promoters,” Arum says. “The old guys who were the promoters are now dead.”
For that same reason, Arum has built his own company with the mindset of a technician. “If you’re a technician,” Arum explains, “then you build up an organization.” So, he might be Top Rank’s founder, but there’s an infrastructure — president, chief operating officer, vice president of boxing operations, matchmakers, and anyone else needed to keep the fights going — to survive past him. (Although a specific successor hasn’t been publicly identified, presumably Arum’s stepson and current Top Rank president, Todd duBoef, will take the helm.)
Promoting has also changed since he started. For the biggest fights, Arum had to travel the country, if not the globe. Promotional tours stopping at 10, 15, 20 cities within a couple of weeks. A sort of whistle-stop tour with the goal of trying to find an audience. Finding that hasn’t changed, it’s the medium that’s now different. “You have to devote tremendous time to social media,” Arum explains. “And you’ve got to do it yourself and do it in a balls-to-the-wall fashion.”
You don’t live as long as Arum has without seeing change. Without noticing the damage. Without taking losses. The expected ones that still hurt, though, you can see them coming. His former co-workers in the U.S. attorney’s office, now in their 80s and 90s, who increasingly die. Muhammad Ali, whose health deteriorated after his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, even though his speech was noticeably slower before then. After so many grueling fights, the words that flowed like water when he was young slowed to molasses. “It wasn’t Ali,” Arum says of the boxer’s June 2016 death. That helped ease the pain.
“What really affected me badly was when Hagler died out of nowhere.” Talking of Marvin Hagler’s death in March of last year, Arum’s notoriously intimidating voice softens. “This great physical specimen — most loyal fighter that I ever promoted — suddenly passed away.”
Hagler’s death hurt because he was the one who took the money he made fighting and started a new life. The rare boxer who never suffered the brutal indignity of getting old inside the ring, he moved to Italy and, placing as much distance between himself and the temptation of a boxing ring, became an actor. He was the one who should’ve outlived Arum and all the men he fought to escape. Hagler’s death hurt because it proved what we all know but is difficult to say. That no one gets out alive.
Suffice to say it’s always the unexpected punches that hurt most. Like the loss of Arum’s eldest son, John Arum, 49. He fell climbing Washington State’s North King Mountain.
Arum still dreams about him. He has pictures around his house of when John was 5 or 6, and Ali has his arm wrapped around him. Because no parent should outlive their child, a part of Arum died with his son.
“He was devastated,” Richard Arum says of his father. “We were all devastated, and we still carry that loss. That’s a universal; everyone understands that, right?”
“Everyone is carrying losses.”
IT’S SATURDAY AFTERNOON, on fight night, and Arum’s sitting in the first row. His line of sight is directly to the center of the boxing ring, behind the red corner. It’s about 4½ hours before the main event begins, but Arum — with Harmon two chairs over — is already there.
From start to finish, he watches every single fight of the events he promotes. It’s his way of showing the boxers in the early bouts — competitors in those four- and six-rounders who are fighting their way up — that he’s invested in their careers, too.
The crowd’s always sparse during these early fights. Just friends and family members of those who are fighting. If there are fans there, they are the hardest of the hardcore. It’s so empty that it’s easy to hear cornermen screaming out to their fighters.
Boxing memorabilia at Top Rank headquarters in Las Vegas. Al Powers for ESPN
“BE FIRST!” they’ll shout, begging for aggression.
“THERE YOU GO! BEAUTIFUL!” they’ll yell, trying to keep their fighters encouraged.
With little else to drown out the noise, the punches sound especially loud. You can hear the boxers talking to each other.
“God damn, you keep on head-butting me!” Estevan Partida tells Adrian Serrano during the first fight on the card.
This is Serrano’s professional debut. He’s a 17-year-old senior at Alisal High School in Salinas, California. So young he has acne on his face and a mustache that should eventually grow into more than the trace it is now. By the time the fight ends in a draw that leaves no one satisfied, Serrano’s face is bloodied and bruised. In a perfect world, a high school student doesn’t fight for money on a Saturday night. However, in this world, there will always be someone willing to do exactly that. And there will always be someone selling tickets for whoever wants to watch.
As the event continues and the afternoon turns to night, Arum keeps watching. It looks like the crowd has grown around him. He’s doing what he loves. “He finds meaning and purpose in boxing,” Richard Arum says of his father. A sociology professor, Richard says if we ever want to find contentment, we must first find meaning and purpose in life. His father has that.
With the main event about to begin, Berchelt enters the ring with singer Simón León leading him in song. With the decidedly pro-Mexican crowd, it feels like a party. Berchelt’s opponent, Jeremiah Nakathila, from Namibia, got hardly any notice as he entered the ring. For Berchelt, even if the crowd isn’t large, the fans sing along with him and reach out to touch him. They’re here to watch him win.
The bell rings and the main event starts. For Arum, this is the best part of each event. He has done everything he can to promote the fights. Whatever went wrong during the promotion, and there’s always something, can’t get fixed now. It’s up to the boxers to deliver on what he sold.
Almost immediately, it’s clear Berchelt isn’t the same boxer he once was. The reflexes on his treacherous body have slowed. The punches he once narrowly avoided now connect with more frequency. When that happens, instincts take over and, trying to protect yourself by keeping the hands up, you throw fewer punches. Because of those same blunted reflexes, when you do throw punches, they’re easier to dodge. That’s what’s happening here. Nakathila is hitting Berchelt almost at will.
The once lively environment has gone so quiet that you can hear Berchelt’s trainer, Jorge Capetillo, yell that the counterpunch is there. But it’s one thing to see it, quite another to be fast enough to take it without exposing yourself to danger. It’s one thing to be 30 years old, as Berchelt is. It’s quite another to be a 30-year-old boxer who taxed his body while fighting his way from obscurity to a world title and now looks like an old man inside the ring.
No one can help him now. Berchelt looks like the loneliest man in all the sport. Watch enough boxing and almost inevitably you’ll see a fight like this. They’re the ones hardest to watch. Fights that aren’t fights so much as watching someone get beat. Fights when you can’t help but to quietly say what you and so many others are thinking.
“Stop the fight.”
Because this has now entered that space between sport and seeing a man fighting in that purgatory between life and death.
Because Berchelt’s dreams have become a nightmare.
Because he was once a beautiful boxer but now he’s not.
“STOP THE FIGHT!” You almost want to scream.
Because somewhere in here, someone’s watching Berchelt take a beating, and that’s enough to make them cry.
BERCHELT LOST A FIGHT that years ago he would’ve had no trouble winning. Mercifully, the referee stopped it after the sixth round. Berchelt wanted to keep fighting. Instead, he went to a local hospital in the back of an ambulance. Capetillo will meet him there, so he talks fast as he answers questions.
“Se lo acabaron,” Capetillo says of Berchelt. They finished him. He doesn’t say who they are, but he’s talking about everyone in the world of boxing. Other fighters, yes, but also the managers, the trainers, the promoters, and maybe even the fans. We all finished him. There are no saints here. We’ve all made ungodly demands of mortals.
Capetillo says he’s going to tell Berchelt it’s time to walk away. “He had six title defenses,” Capetillo says in Spanish. “He had a good run. But it’s important to take care of your health. His faculties have waned little by little. He looks tired — his body is worn.”
The conversation between Capetillo and Berchelt will be difficult. It’s easy to tell someone to stop fighting. Much harder to understand just how much boxing’s a part of their life. Often, it’s their identity. The reason they wake up and run. Why they eat what they eat at certain times of the day. Why they have the friends that they have. Boxing’s the reason why, long after they have nothing to prove, they still dream about fighting. The reason why sometimes the losses they carry are so painful and haunting, they’ll risk their lives trying to win again.
Almost immediately after the fight’s over, and everyone empties the ring, workers rush to tear it down. The cameras and microphones are turned off. The laser lights and music are shut down too. Without those distractions, you can see blood stains in the ring.
As Arum stands and starts to walk away, the lights turn on. He takes small, careful steps up the aisle. Every so often, he touches the top rail of the seats just to help keep his balance. Moving slowly, the old man’s on his way to sell the next fight.