By NICK GIONGCO
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum said the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where Manny Pacquiao scored the biggest wins of his legendary career, will be the venue of his April 12 ring return.
Arum, who turns 82 on Sunday, told the Bulletin from New York yesterday that the identity of Pacquiao’s opponent will be known “before Christmas” and the candidates are Tim Bradley of the US and Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico or even Ruslan Provodnikov of Russia even if he is also trained by Freddie Roach.
The Grand Garden Arena, can accommodate more than 17,000 and Arum is upbeat that all seats can be filled as evidenced by Pacquiao’s immense popularity.
When Pacquiao beat Brandon Rios last Nov. 23 in Macau, the CotaiArena was reconfigured to 13,000-plus and Arum beamed with pride following the announcement that 13,101 fans that sounded like 30,000 came to watch it.
Bradley is the favorite to land the Pacquiao payday as he is raring to prove that his split decision win over the Filipino icon was not a fluke.
Marquez, 40, is also on the radar screen but he has made it clear that he doesn’t have any intentions of meeting Pacquiao in a fourth fight especially after his rousing sixth-round knockout the last time they squared off.
But now that Marquez is coming off a loss to Bradley, he might end up having a change of heart and lured into a mouth-watering matchup with Pacquiao, whose career received a jolt following his lopsided victory over Brandon Rios in Macau late last month.
The MGM Grand was where Pacquiao scored his landmark stoppage of Oscar Dela Hoya in Dec. 2008, his second-round devastation of British Ricky Hatton in May 2009 and his 12th-round beatdown of Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto in November of the same year.
If Pacquiao hurdles his April assignment, Arum said Pacquiao will return to Macau in November.
Meanwhile, Arum said he would love to see Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather get it on before they go past their prime.
Speaking to USA Today, Arum said getting the fight done remains possible.
“Absolutely. It can happen. It’s stupid if it doesn’t happen. They owe it to the sport. What, is Mayweather going to fight Amir Khan? Who gives a (expletive)? We’ve announced we’re willing to make anything happen. Now somebody has got to contact us so we can sit down and explore how it can happen. Isn’t that the way normal people deal? You can’t wave a wand. I’ve said unequivocally, we’re ready to sit down and see if a deal can be reached.”