Bob Papa Interview - In depth on Boxing, Pacquiao, Mayweather, HBO and Truly so much More! Interview by David Tyler, DoghouseBoxing (May 31, 2010)
Now that the Olympics are over, Bob Papa has settled in as the "blow by blow" announcer for HBO's "Boxing After Dark" boxing matches. Bob knows his boxing as you will see in this interview. Enjoy!
David Tyler - How did you become interested in boxing?
Bob Papa - My family is from the Bronx and I had many relatives interested in the fight game. As a kid growing up I was attracted to boxing. In the 70's you had the Wide World of Sports showing boxing on free television during the cold weather months. They had top notch fighters and if someone like Ali had a fight on Close Circuit television, the following Saturday they showed the replay on the Wide World of Sports. That would be how I developed a strong interest in the sport and in time that interest developed into a love and passion for boxing.
DT - The Wide World of Sports was presented by ABC. Do you think the major networks will ever dip into boxing again?
BP - Early in the 2000's when I left ESPN and started working for NBC they had the Budweiser boxing tour in conjunction with Main Events and we had some really great fights. We had great fights that were well promoted and the ratings were very good. The problem was the network just couldn't sell advertising time to make it profitable enough. Unfortunately the sport has gone so cable that the networks just don't want to dip their toe in the sport because it would be a lot of work. I was playing golf the other day with some friends and a buddy of mine said that he used to love watching boxing but he doesn't even know the main players in the sport anymore. He started naming off the list of fighters that he had seen on the Wide World of Sports and telling me how great these fighters were back in the day. I told him that we have fighters today who are just as good as those fighters that he had watched earlier. The problem is that the sport has gone completely cable so it doesn't have the same reach as it did in the past. The sport still has a strong following, just look at the PPV numbers and the ticket sales. Boxing has done a wonderful job of marketing to a vast array of people with different ethnic backgrounds, different countries, and different nationalities. People always ask me is the sport dead and I tell them that boxing is probably healthier now than it has ever been. That's because it has become truly a global sport where arenas are selling out all over the world. The fact that Manny Pacquiao is from the Philippines and he fought a guy from Ghana in Dallas and they had 50,000 people in a football stadium, speaks to the popularity of the sport.
DT - We will get to Pacquiao, but first let's discuss how Mayweather looked in his last fight against Shane Mosley. Did Mayweather impress you?
BP - I know that Mayweather will always look very good. My feelings were that when Shane Mosley was in his prime, whenever he fought he was always the most physically gifted boxer against just about anybody he fought. He was faster, he was more athletic and now he was in the ring older and past his physical prime and he was fighting a guy who does everything better than him. It wasn't long into the fight that you could see that two guys who rely on athletic skills to win fights, the younger, faster and more athletic fighter was going to win.
DT - Bob, I remain cautiously pessimistic about a Mayweather/ Pacquiao fight. I say this because I have never seen a time in the sport when the public wanted a fight and boxing didn't deliver the goods. If they do fight, will it be a slugger going up against a boxer?
BP - The amazing thing about Pacquiao is that as he has moved up in weight he has become a more fierce slugger. In the Clottey fight he took some shots. Sure, Clottey didn't do a lot of punching but when he did he landed some shots. After the fight you look at Pacquiao and look at Clottey. Pacquiao looked like he had been hit more than it appeared as you watched the fight and Clottey looked like he never took a punch. I just think that Mayweather is so skilled, so sharp, and so controlled that he will control Pacquiao. Of course Pacquiao will go after him and I think that after what you seen in round two of the Mosley fight where Mayweather was hurt at least twice it kind of leaves that door open for fans to say what happens if Pacquiao catches him with the same kind of punches? The physical attributes go in favor of Mayweather but I don't think this fight will be boring because there will be a point in this fight where Pacquiao will have his moments and how will Mayweather deal with those moments. Mayweather did the smart thing against Mosley and held on, will he be able to hold on against Pacquiao? Will Pacquiao have more zip in him and continue to build upon the power advantage that he will have in the fight?
DT - The last fight you called for HBO was the Khan/ Malignaggi bout, where does the winner, Amir Khan, go from here and can he handle someone with a bit of power?
BP - That's the big question. They made the trip to the United States and used New York City and the theater of Madison Square Garden as the jumping off point against a local guy that can sell tickets. It was a smart transition fight for Amir Khan because the one question that you do have about Amir Khan is can he take a real punch. We know that Malignaggi with over 230 rounds as a pro going into that fight only has five knockouts. Those are the facts, he can talk about hand injuries in the past and Paulie is the kind of guy that can sell ice to an Eskimo, but the fact is that God just didn't bless Paulie with any power. So the one thing that you wanted to find out about Amir Khan, you didn't find out against Malignaggi. The positive that I took from that fight for Khan. Khan has been a top amateur and silver medalist in the Olympics. He fought European fighters exclusively in the early part of his career. Those fighters usually have a style; they stand straight in front of you, robotic, plodding along, not a lot of movement, much like the traditional Olympic style boxing. So the question was how was he going to deal with Malignaggi who wants to make it a sloppy fight, wants to mug for the crowd, wants to move the shoulders and very little else. Amir had told us the day before the fight that he was very hyper as a kid and Freddie Roach has taught him patience. I was very impressed with Amir's patience because he did not get swept up in the Malignaggi hype and knew that he needed his jab to control the fight. He hit his jabs at 41% accuracy and technically he is very sound. He seems to keep his balance, his hands are up, he is even tempered, and I think he has a good boxing acumen. I believe these skills will serve him well when he gets in the ring with some of the better guys where he does have to stay disciplined and use his jab. I have been very impressed with Amir Khan's improvement since I watched him win the Silver Medal in the Olympics.
DT - The 140 pound division is loaded with talent, what do you see next for that division?
BP - I think we have set the stage for a four fighter tournament: Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, Tim Bradley, and Devon Alexander. Let these guys go at it over the next six months and let's just see who is the best fighter at that weight. Amir Khan told us during the fighter interviews that he considers himself a world class guy but I don't even remotely consider myself one of the top pound for pound guys. I think that when you have a Freddie Roach or Teddy Atlas with you these guys are not only great trainers but they are smart match makers and move a fighter along in the right way to take those natural steps so that when it's time to perform at the best or highest level the fighter will be prepared. There is a big difference in that approach when compared with the one where you are so concerned that your fighter has a zero in the right hand column of his record and then gets blasted away when he fights a guy with some talent.
DT - The next big live event on HBO boxing is next Saturday's fight with Miguel Cotto taking on Yuri Foreman at 154 pounds. What are your thoughts about this fight?
BP - If you look at the last two or three fights for Miguel Cotto he has struggled so this fight would be redemption time for him and a chance to regain a championship belt. He has put up some respectable numbers when he has appeared on PPV events. Cotto is still a young fighter and just maybe the 154 pound division is where he belongs at this stage in his career. Yuri Foreman, the belt holder, also has a strong ethnic following and New York is his adopted home. When you add in the fact that this will be the first boxing match at Yankee Stadium since 1976 with the Ali/ Norton bout, it becomes somewhat of an historic event. Also, Foreman has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Manny Pacquiao if the negotiations fall through with Mayweather. This fight will certainly have an effect on future bouts in that division.
DT - Bob, I enjoyed watching the Amir Khan/ Paulie Malignaggi fight on HBO. Your team with Max Kellerman and Harold Ledderman did nothing less than a superb job. I remain an advocate for the two man team and Harold giving us his insight. Will HBO replace Lennox Lewis on boxing after dark?
BP - I think that HBO is looking at all options. It's more of a wait and see approach. I don't think anything is in the plans of 2010.
DT - Other than the Mayweather/ Pacquiao possible bout, there just doesn't seem to be other mega events in the sport on the immediate horizon. Agree or disagree?
BP - It certainly depends on who wins that fight and how it plays out. We could get a classic where both guys feel that there should be a rematch. What happens if we get a draw or a split decision? If it turns out to be a great financial success that everyone is expecting, we just might get a series of fights from those two. I'll answer the question more directly, there it depends on who is the winner of that bout and how much longer do they want to stick around. As Max Kellerman pointed out during our broadcast last week, 140 pounds can be considered Super Lightweight or you can call it Junior Welterweight. We have a great cast of fighters at 140 pounds who are all young and will certainly move up to the Welterweight division in a year or two. What you are seeing at 140 pounds has the potential to spin into mega fights at 147 pounds or even 154 pounds. So in a couple of years Pacquiao and Mayweather will have to decide if they want to stay around and take on some of these younger guns.
DT - Bob, thank you for your time and we all look forward to some exciting fights on HBO's Boxing After Dark series the second half of the year.
BP - Your welcome and it's been my pleasure.
Many thanks to Kris Goddard and Ray Stallone of HBO for helping make this interview happen!
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