Boxing promoter Bob Arum is a role model for his longevity and lord knows his admirable doggedness. At 85, 86 in December, he is tenacious and wickedly vibrant when defending his turf, the boxing sphere, against naysayers and interlopers.
Such as UFC president Dana White, the Boston born Las Vegan who has been jostling with Arum off and on, now mostly on, for the last eight or so years. White spoke to The Wall Street Journal and Jason Gay, and busted on boxing with his trademark brio.
“Everything we’ve done hasn’t been about right here and now, it’s about the future of the sport,” White told Gay. “One of the things that boxing did and continues to do to kill itself, is never care about the future. Every boxing event is like a going out of business sale,” he said, while Gay giggled…”and they’re trying to get every dime they can out of you, and stuff it in their pockets and they don’t put any money back into it.”
Arum didn't take that comment laying down. It was Brooklyn barking back at Boston…
“You have to understand, UFC is a monopoly, the money they earn on a fight because they pay their athletes 20 percent of the gross, we pay around 80 percent, what they say they're investing back in the business, they're investing in themselves, they put money in their pockets! That's not investing in anything,” Arum told NYF. “In boxing, there are a large number of promoters, and when a promoter has a successful event and there's a profit he earns, he puts it back in the company. What the fuck is White talking about? White is speaking from desperation now, he's the spokesperson for what could be a failing business!”
Yes, it is clear, Arum believes boxing is on the ascent, and UFC is on a decline. He's said the same on Talkbox…
“Absolutely, boxing around the world is on the ascent,whether it's in in Japan where I just came from, the audience to watch Ryoto Murat versus Hassan N'Dam on Fuji was 30 million viewers, that's 30 percent of the whole fucking country! In England with Anthony Joshua they had 90,000 in an outdoor stadium, they will have another tremendous crowd this week. In the US, boxing is thriving, there are more shows thanks to the ESPN deal, the continuation of HBO and Showtime, there are one or two fight shows for national consumption every week. Damn right boxing is on the upswing, the ratings we’re getting on ESPN are incredible. I tell you this, that fight from from Japan, with the difference in time, it was on live at 7:15 AM ET, 4:15 West Coast. It did 230,000 viewers watching in the US! 230,000 got up at that hour to watch a boxing match involving a guy the general public doesn't know!”
Arum continued on White, who I noted is a charismatic sort, who I enjoy listening to. He wouldn't have it. “He's not charismatic, the guy has charisma like Trump does, it's the same kind of con!” Check out more trademark Arum, freewheeling and fiery, on Talkbox.
White in the WSJ chat said that yes, he's considered folding boxing into the UFC, not on the same show, but doing boxing events promoted by UFC. “Believe me, I’ve been approached by people,” he told Gay.
Arum spoke on that..Arum said that no, it's not always best for the promoters to have so much competition in the boxing space, but it is darn sure better for the athletes and probably the fans, to have so many promotional entities and platforms showing boxing. “In MMA, they have only one, with the possible exception of Bellator,” he said, repeating the assertion that in his mind, White is able to get an edge because there isn't widespread competition.
So, Arum's thoughts on White trying his hand at boxing promotion? “My thoughts are that UFC is desperate, their numbers are way off, they have no marquee star. Look at their PPV numbers, they barely break 100,000 homes on their shows, they're having trouble getting renewal on their contract with Fox. They have to do something. One of things they may try and fall back on and try and acquire a boxing presence. About a year ago I was approached by someone repping UFC, they wanted to buy Top Rank.”
My three cents: The government and the courts would have to decide, ultimately, if how UFC does business constitutes monopolistic practices. Thus far, they have not. What looks to some like beyond hardball tactics, which seep into unseemly, is to the other side just good hard-nosed business. And so it is with Arum, who is so adamant about presenting the merits of the sport which doesn't enjoy the ability to be the new kid on the block, as MMA does. Hard nosed, to be sure.
One thing I think the White admission says is that yes, he'd maybe be inclined to take a crack at boxing promotion because boxing has, continues to have, a real appeal.
If it weren't so, a hard nosed business guy like Dana White wouldn't even be contemplating jumping into the waters. He might not find them as accommodating as the MMA side of the pool, though.