Bob Arum: Saudis In Boxing Is Game Changer



Bob Arum: Saudis In Boxing Is Game Changer
Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

It’s gonna be an absolutely YUGE event, Bob Arum said via phone, from the UK, after having taken in the Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou press conference on Sept 7.

“Very exciting,” he said, sounding admirably excited, being that he’s been doing this since 1966.

“The Saudis are doing this fight, with Top Rank and Frank Warren helping, gonna be an absolutely yuge event, they’re building an arena for 22,000. I’ve never seen a lavish production like they are doing.”

It's tagged “Battle of the Baddest,” for the record. I'm of those thinking Ngannou has “nou” chance to touch Fury, the skillful slobby-body stylist, on Oct. 28, but time will tell.

Tyson Fury happy with Saudi Arabia deal

Fury seems happy with the terms of the deal. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Bob Arum In the Biz Since 1966

Bob Arum is 91, been doing a variation of this for way more than half his life.

I asked him to recall, back in “the days” him and King had the luxury of being able to bring promotions to exotic locales, and not just because the Ali shuffle had admirers in every cranny on the planet. Sometimes, a king or a president would understand that his place could get lots of incidental attention playing host to a magnet like Ali.

They’d pay a pretty penny for the right, over-paying, at times, in exchange for hassle of going outside traditional comfort zones.

In boxing, Las Vegas certainly fits as a “comfort zone.” And it struck me that gaming titans are likely quite cognizant of the new kids on the block, the Saudis, who are spending handsomely and happily to attract events to their corner of the planet. “The planners announced they will do all future fights in Saudi Arabia, Top Rank and Frank will be the only companies they associated with,” Bob Arum told me. “It's a game changer.”

Bob Arum says Ngannou has a helluva punch

0-0 in boxing, but with Mike Tyson in his corner

Las Vegas Not Down, Or Out, But…

So…Sounds to me like Vegas is on the outside looking in on this attraction, Fury, and whoever he’s tango-ing with?

“Not Vegas on the outs,” Bob Arum answered, as a clever assuager. “But many first class, major events will be taking place in Saudi Arabia.”

He enjoyed the pomp, circumstances, props, and technical flair, how Fury and Ngannou were presented as kings in video offerings. “One of the most lavish productions I’ve ever been involved in,” he said.

Arum hasn’t ever been to Saudi Arabia. He will be traveling for this Riyadh festival of pugilism. “Yes, of course, Brad Jacobs was over there, he’s in UK now, and he’ll be flying there Sunday. There’s a new city, has arenas, hotels, in three or four years it will be one of the biggest entertainment places in the world.”

So, in any way comparable to deals in Africa, the Philippines, plenty of other spots ruled by folks liking the idea of a PR boost via boxing, back in the day? “The difference is these guys are looking at longevity,” Bob Arum said. “The infrastructure in this area, in 2032 or whatever maybe they host the Olympics. They aren’t looking at this as a one shot deal, it’s the start of something big. Not only in boxing, they’re making massive strides in golf, soccer…we’re thrilled at Top Rank to be doing the boxing.”

Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.