On Dec. 9, Bob Arum will promote the WBO super featherweight title fight between champion Vasily Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Lomachenko (Ukraine) and Rigondeaux (Cuba) are two of the most decorated amateur boxers in history, each having won two Olympic gold medals. Both are considered among the most technically efficient fighters in the game and can be found on many of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter lists. The day before the fight, Dec. 8, Arum celebrates his 86th birthday. The Lomachenko-Rigondeaux fight marks the 30th event the Brooklyn-born Arum and his Top Rank promotional company has staged at the Garden.
Here is a look back at some of the top fights Arum has promoted in New York.
Jan. 28, 1974: Muhammad Ali W12 Joe Frazier
The long-awaited rematch to Ali and Frazier's epic Fight of the Century in 1971. Ali controlled the fight behind his jab and won a close unanimous decision at MSG. The bout was not without controversy as referee Tony Perez mistakenly thought he heard a bell and stepped in to end the second round. Frazier had just been stunned by Ali. By the time Perez realized the mistake and the round resumed, Frazier had recovered and was out of danger. A ringside seat cost $100, but Arum said he was being offered $1,000 a seat in the days before the fight.
Sept. 28, 1976: Muhammad Ali W12 Ken Norton
This was the third and final meeting between Ali and Norton. Ali had just regained the heavyweight title from George Foreman, and Norton was riding a seven-fight win streak. All three of the Ali-Norton fights were close and at the end of this one at Yankee Stadium, Ali was awarded a narrow unanimous decision. The scoring was done by rounds and referee Arthur Mercante Sr., from Long Island, saw it 8-6 for Ali. The other two judges, Harold Lederman and Barney Smith, both scored it 8-7 in favor of Ali. At the time of the fight, the New York City Police Department was on strike. Attendance was reported at 30,000, Arum maintained that the police strike severely impacted walk-up sales.
June 16, 1983: Roberto Duran TKO8 Davey Moore
This fight at MSG helped restore the legend of Duran after the infamous "No Mas" fight against Sugar Ray Leonard. Although Moore had only 12 pro fights, he was the reigning WBA junior middleweight champion and a 5-2 betting favorite. The fight took place on Duran's 32nd birthday and moving up in weight, he dominated the champion. Moore's face was badly swollen at the time of the stoppage. A crowd of 20,061 produced a gate of $964,305. After the fight, Duran was quoted as saying that it wasn't until Arum took over as his promoter that he became convinced he could again be a good fighter.
Oct. 19, 1984: Marvin Hagler KO3 Mustafa Hamsho
The Hagler-Hamsho rematch was Hagler's only fight at the Garden. Hamsho, from Brooklyn, via Latakia, Syria, had a large contingent of fans at the Garden. Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champion and stopped Hamsho on cuts in the 11th round of their first match. In the rematch, Hagler dropped Hamsho in Round 3, the first time Hamsho had been dropped in his career. After a follow-up combination dropped Hamsho again, his corner stopped the fight. Immediately after the fight, Arum offered $10 million each to Hagler and Thomas Hearns, it would take until April of 1985 for that fight to happen.
Dec. 15, 1995: Oscar de la Hoya TKO2 Jesse James Leija
The first of two appearances at the Garden for Oscar de la Hoya, he stopped Leija at the close of the second round and retained his WBO lightweight title. It was the first fight in the Garden's main arena in over two years. Arturo Gatti won his first world title on the undercard. "The importance of fighting in New York legitimizes that sport," Arum said before the bout. "You cannot survive without a base here. Professional football can survive without a base in L.A., but couldn't without a New York team. Boxing has been hurt tremendously the last eight years because New York lost out to Atlantic City and Las Vegas."
June 5, 2010: Miguel Cotto TKO9 Yuri Foreman
Arum -- and boxing -- returned to Yankee Stadium after a 34-year absence. It remains the only boxing match to be held at the renovated Yankee Stadium. Cotto, defending his WBA junior middleweight title, was easily winning on points when the bout ended in the ninth round after Foreman injured his knee and could no longer continue. "This is like night and day," said Arum, referring to the new stadium. "No matter how many times they refurbished the old stadium, it was still a 1920s building."
Dec. 3, 2011: Miguel Cotto TKO9 Antonio Margarito
This was billed as a grudge match. Margarito had stopped Cotto in convincing fashion in 2008, but six months later, the Margarito camp was caught wrapping plaster over the fighter's hand wraps in a fight against Shane Mosley. That led many in boxing to speculate if Margarito's wraps were also tampered with for the Cotto fight. Given the history, the rematch was a sellout at the Garden and generated a live gate in excess of $3 million. Cotto would exact his revenge with a thorough ninth-round TKO. "Boxing has never, ever been stronger than it is now," said Arum after the sellout. "Look at our experience. Our experience, look what's happening in Mexico, Germany and various other places. ... And now we're here in 'The Big Apple,' Madison Square Garden, where people understand sports and follow sports and they're just not going to buy tickets unless you give them value, and it's a complete sellout two days before the event. So don't tell me that boxing is dead. Boxing is not dead. Boxing is very strong."
April 13, 2013: Guillermo Rigondeaux W12 Nonito Donaire
In only the second fight card in the 82-year history Radio City Music Hall, Rigondeaux captured a unanimous decision over Donaire to unify the WBA and WBO super bantamweight titles. Donaire entered the fight on a 30-bout winning streak and had accepted the Fighter of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America two days before the fight. Although he managed to drop the Cuban in the 10th round, Rigondeaux's counterpunching earned him the unanimous decision. Long Island's Seanie Monaghan fought on the undercard. The fight was witnessed by 6,145 fans, a sellout at Radio City Music Hall.