Within the pugilism sphere, Bob Arum is second to Mike Tyson the top proponent of the merits of cannabis. With that in mind, I reached out to promoter Arum on 4/20, to get his thoughts on the state of the sport, the upcoming slate of Top Rank fights which will unfold in the coming months, and whatever else he wanted to get into.
Bob Arum Assesses Boxing, Big Picture
Bless the 91 year old Arum, he will keep you on your toes and then some. I asked Arum for a big picture take on the sport, wondering if maybe we weren’t coming out of a doldrums period, out of Covid sluggishness. “It’s not that simple, it never is that simple,” Arum said. “The real problem is the PPV business is not robust, and the fighters who reach PPV level generally have visions of what it once was, and what fighters once got, those numbers don’t exist anymore.
“For example, when we had Manny Pacquiao, $15 million for a fight was not out of the question, you could fairly easily recover that from PPV revenue. That is’t possible anymore, but fighters still reach for it…and you really can’t blame them. In an era where sports rights fees have exploded, football, baseball, basketball, record amounts of amounts of money are made, how do you tell fighters, because we’re in boxing, you’re not gonna reach the level fighters before you reached, you have to take less money? It’s a very, very difficult situation. For example, Spence Crawford in other eras would have been a really huge fight, but a promoter now can’t give them the money that the fight probably deserves, without taking into account what is realistic to recover to go against guarantees. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s a question how everybody is gonna adjust, until the next big technical development comes which will enable a fight to earn more.”
And what that might be, and when it might appear, he couldn’t say.
“All I can do is comment on what is now, I’m not a Nostradamus that can predict the future. But the whole history of closed circuit and going to theaters, when that began to die out, suddenly we had PPV. If you go by history, something is gonna happen that changes things, but when and what that is, that’s beyond my pay grade.”
Nope, Bob Arum will not be tuning in Saturday to watch the Gervonta Davis v Ryan Garcia scrap. Not because he isn’t intrigued by the match, he explained, it’s much more pragmatic than that.
“Not because it’s not a good match,” Arum said. “But one thing I pretty much have to do to keep my life stable is allow my wife social events and not watch every fight on TV. I have enough of my own product on TV, that takes up so much time, I have to discipline myself. It’s not a commentary on quality.”
And would it be “better” for the sport if Gervonta wins? Or if Ryan Garcia gets the W? “Tank has been tested more than Garcia, he hasn’t been tested, at all in my opinion,” Arum said. “If Garcia wins then he becomes somebody you can’t say hasn’t been tested. It would be hard to see where Garcia would go, stay at 135, go to 140, I’ve never talked to Oscar about that. If Tank wins, 135 should be reasonable place for him, he fits in lot with a lot of the top guys at 135 today.”
Gervonta Ryan Garcia Winner vs Haney Loma Winner?
And hello, we got Devin Haney versus Vasiliy Lomachenko doing battle May 20 in a 135 pound showdown in Las Vegas, maybe the Davis-Garcia winner and the Haney-Loma winner can get it on?
“It depends on the money available, the aspirations of fighters, on the ability of promoters to realize that money without taking a horrendous loss,” the promoter said. “If Tank wins and fights the winner of Haney Loma, that would be very appealing. Question is, what will they want and how can it be realized. The idea that people say, ‘Haymon has Tank, Top Rank has the other fighter, that’s an impediment, no. People blame the Spence Crawford fight not happening on us. Then Crawford was not with us, and you saw, that was never the problem. The problem was what the fighters thought they were entitled to, and how promoters could do it without blowing their brains out. When Crawford became a free agent, people thought ‘now it’s easy to make the fight,’ no, it’s not, fighters still had aspirations.”
Top Rank is also looking toward a May 13 card, topped by Janibek Alimkhanuly v Steven Butler, in Stockton, CA. The Kazakh Janibek (13-0, 8 KOs; 2016 Olympian) holds the WBO middleweight crown, which was interim, but deemed non-interim when Demetrius Andrade decided to give up that strap, rather than defend it, for the record. “I’m nuts about the middleweights, and the division has fallen on hard times now, but I think it will be back,” Arum said. “It should always be popular, it’s a mix of the hard punching heavyweights and lighter weights. Hagler was my favorite fighter, I think Janibek is a terrific fighter, I’m happy to get him back, in a title defense.”
Butler holds a 32-3-1, 26 KOs mark, the nine-year pro is from Montreal, Canada. He challenged Ryota Murata for the WBA title, lost, and is now coming off four wins, two of them by knockout.
Bob Arum Suggests Betting On Loma Against Haney
Now, deeper into that Haney v Loma battle. Haney is a substantial favorite, Arum allowed. “But if you want to make a smart bet, make it on Loma. Loma is one of best boxers we’ve seen last in the 10-20 years, someone who is close to him now is Shakur…Can Haney meet that experience and cleverness? If Haney was a bigger puncher, well, people could say, ‘it’s not gonna be that competitive,’ but we know Haney is a very good boxer, not a puncher. I think that means trading skills with Loma, and Loma based on his body of work is a very skilled boxer. I think it’s very, very close, and depending on the odds you get, a good bet would be Loma if the price was right.”
Arum said nah, the fight didn’t get made now because Loma is 35, obviously on the downside, and that’s how it generally goes in the fight game. “The fight was right to be made now,” he said. “The fighters aspirations were there, they got good guarantees, given the state of the economics of the business, it’s achievable without blowing our brains out. Well compensated, not crazy. Bill Haney (father/trainer/manager to Devin) is a very good negotiator, the end of the day he understands numbers, same thing with Egis Klimas (manager to Loma).”
Then, after we see how Haney-Loma plays out on May 20, it’s off to Ireland for Arum. Him and the missus will trek to see Mick Conlan (18-1) try to win the IBF featherweight crown off 27-2 Mexican Luis Alberto Lopez. “We went to Belfast before, for a Conlan fight, after Haney Loma we go there and drive Dublin to Belfast, go to that fight, I’m really looking forward to it. Belfast is such a blast, the bars, roaming bands of musicians play Irish songs.”
Top Rank and Arum Hitting NYC For June 10 Event
Then, to June 10th, it’s Top Rank in NYC. “I’m looking forward to that fight, we had Josh Taylor come in to the US to get physicals and get TV doing Shakur’s fight, he’s fit and ready. And then there’s Teofimo Lopez. You talk to him, you put him in with anybody.” Basically, Bob Arum is kind of implying what most of us were thinking seeing the last Teofimo fight, against Sandor Martin, on Dec. 10, 2022. The tight fight ended with Teofimo awaiting the decision, and being caught on a hot mic asking rhetorically if he has it anymore. I’m not sure the 25 year old holding an 18-1 record KNOWS that he does, so the stakes are large June 10. It’s no given that Lopez can get himself back on that track which was so thrilling two years ago.
Arum is looking forward to extended time in NYC, he told NYFIGHTS, his daughter is getting married June 17 in the vicinity.
Then, we hit July, traditionally a heavy month for Top Rank. Arum spoke on four dates: July 1, a heavyweight card in Toledo.
“It’s a homecoming for Jared Anderson, we’re matching him with an undefeated fighter. Also, the Russian-Canadian guy with the unpronounceable name (Arslanbek Makhmudov) is on that card. We have four undefeated heavyweights on the undercard. Then, the end of July, we have the little firebrand, Seniesa Estrada, defending her title. And Keyshawn Davis on that card.” Estrada got it done on March 25, besting Tina Rupprecht in a defense of her two minimum weight crowns.
“Then, July 25 in Japan, we have the Monster,” Arum continued. Yes, the Naoya Inoue vs Stephen Fulton clash is back on the calendar, a collision very much anticipated by hardcores. It was set for May 7, but an Inoue injury postponed the match. Now, it’s been reset. Robeisy Ramirez will have a spot on the card, as well. He won a bevy of fans with an April 1 win over Issac Dogboe, when he made the vacant WBO featherweight crown his, in Tulsa.
Also, circle July 29 on the calendar, though Bob Arum isn’t really sure what fight it is going to top the bill. “We’re very busy this summer, no football,” he noted.
Raves About Shakur Stevenson
I enthused to Arum about this version of Shakur Stevenson we saw on April 8. Maybe it’s the Bud Crawford influence, who knows, but the NJ product seems like he’s gone to the next level as a pugilist. He’s looking to close the show now, he’s more confident in sitting down on his shots, he’s trusting his chin, all that.
“He’s become very media friendly, we’ve talked with him, he’s now a social media darling,” Bob Arum told me.
“Mike, everything is good, our guys working really hard, we’ve never ever had this quantity of top young fighters we have now. Interesting fighters, kids who know how to reach out to social media, kids who are respectful…I’m really proud of what we’re showing. Equally important is Shakur’s realization that he has to appeal to the media, has to be charming, has to connect that way. These kids are learning that, we have 12 people in the social media department, what they mainly do is interview these guys. We don’t have the type of press coverage we used to, there’s nothing in the newspapers, so we have to develop that ourselves. We’re going to be rolling out programs, 1/2 hour shows, reminiscent of what HBO did before each event, using more of our resources on that. It makes people care more about the fighters, and care more about the sport.”