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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: HOW BOB ARUM HAS FAILED TERENCE CRAWFORD

By Paul Magno | November 23, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: HOW BOB ARUM HAS FAILED TERENCE CRAWFORD

Bob Arum seriously needs to go away. Arum needs to leave and stop hustling like boxing can afford to be slinging his type of bullshit anymore. The sport, thanks in large part to dealings from guys like him, has no leverage, no position of power with which to deal in sleight of hand and trickery anymore. The sport is now the Three-card Monte dealer who mismanaged his hustle, chased everyone away, and is just some idiot standing on a corner with playing cards and a folding table. 

Boxing needs to stop teasing and taunting and start delivering. And the first step towards that goal is backing up and re-discovering what a promoter is actually supposed to do. 

Spoiler Alert: A promoter is supposed to PROMOTE.

Arum's nasty little diatribe following his fighter Terence Crawford's bout with Kell Brook on November 14 should be a First Alert buzzer to boxing fans that this old fucker has fallen and can't get up. 

"He’s [Crawford] got to promote like [Teofimo] Lopez does. He’s got to promote like Shakur [Stevenson] does. Like [Floyd] Mayweather did. Like [Manny] Pacquiao did," Arum told The Athletic. "If he doesn’t, then who the fuck needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world, but, hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him."

When asked if his Top Rank promotional company can keep Crawford from bolting to the welterweight-rich Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) when the fighter's contract is up in October, 2021, Arum got especially crotchety.

"That’s not the right question...The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights. A beautiful home... The question is, ‘Does it [Crawford's work] pay the bills?’ Look, you can have the greatest opera singer in the world. If the fans don’t support it, you’re out of business."

Arum has made the case previously that a fighter like Crawford needs a promoter, but then he says that fighter better sell his own fights and promote his own image. WTF? That's like going to a diner and the cook tells you that they have the best burgers in the world, but you better fry yours up all by yourself if you want it done right. 

There's some truth in Arum words, of course. A charismatic, outgoing fighter who welcomes media attention (rather than being resentful and dismissive of it) will attract more public attention. But when a promoter has a great fighter with a fan-friendly style who is not willing (or able) to be a bankable extrovert, then he has to find a way to be that voice for him and makes fights that let his guy do his salesmanship in the ring. That's where Arum and Top Rank have failed. 

 Arum has done zero in getting Crawford's name into the public discourse. Hell, he can't even get his own ESPN home base to give the guy more than a passing push.

And Crawford, despite public posturing about not needing or wanting anyone to establish a true Hall of Fame legacy, has very much been frustrated, behind the scenes, by not getting those big-money legacy fights.

In September, Crawford's attorney sent a formal letter of complaint to Arum and Top Rank stating that it was "beyond frustrating for Terence and his team that TR has failed to give him a big-money, breakthrough fight."

The fighter also dragged and dragged his feet on signing the contract to face Brook on November 14 in an effort, as reported to The Athletic via insider sources, to "stick it to his promoter."

In the present tense, Arum's very public bashing of Crawford's drawing ability has, predictably, brought a counter from the proud three-division champ.

"For him to say some foolish shit like that, it made me look at him a totally different way," Crawford told SiriusXM this past Wednesday. "Release me now and you don't have to lose money no more...That's not my job [promoting], I'm not a promoter. What am I? A fighter. I get paid to fight, I don't get paid to promote. He gets paid to promote. He's supposed to promote me."

Arum, given a few days to back off and embrace diplomacy, doubled down on what could essentially lead to the severing of business ties with the best fighter in his stable. When asked about Crawford's anger and a possible deal with Al Haymon's PBC for a Crawfor-Errol Spence fight, which would entail each side covering their respective fighter's purse, the soon-to-be-89-year-old promoter was downright belligerent.

"I don’t give a shit if [Crawford] got mad at me," Arum blasted. "What’d I say that was wrong? I’ll show him how much we’ve lost on his fights.

"Again, if we did this fight with Spence and put our money in for half of the risk, and Crawford wins and Haymon wants to sign him...be my guest, for Christ’s sake! In other words, I am not going to go in my pocket anymore for Terence Crawford...I’m no longer in the business of losing money on Terence Crawford."

Well, ain't that fucking special?

Ol' Nosferatu Arum is so repugnant in this Crawford thing that he's even got me agreeing with UFC President and Trump-humping meat head Dana White.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" White said in a recent press conference, referring to Arum's quote on Crawford. "That's what you do. That's not his [Crawford's] fucking problem. That's your problem. His problem isn't to figure out how YOU make money. You fucking signed a deal with this kid. Your job is to promote him....Imagine me saying 'Oh, I gotta pay Conor McGregor this much money. I could've built a house in Beverly Hills.' Shut the fuck up, you fucking scumbag."

I mean, seriously. Boxing promoters had been spoiled by 40+ years of easy-money deals with premium cable networks, where all they had to do was bring fighters to the suits and collect big license fee payouts. It didn't matter one bit whether they sold the fight or the fighters, the money was there. Now, we're seeing the effects of lazy business practices. 

The old-timers have forgotten how to actually promote and the newcomers never even learned how to. This is a big reason why boxing is always treading on shaky ground these days. Boxing is the life-long welfare mom with no skills or work history whose last kid is two weeks from his 18th birthday. And, rather than hauling ass to find a path to self-sufficiency, it's clutching at the past, trying to find a new sucker for the old, increasingly outdated hustle.

What Arum and other promoters need to be doing is building a new base using new technology and adapting to new content delivery systems. They need to be doing this for as little cost to the consumer as possible, preferably free, using salesmanship-- not desperate PPV hat-passing-- to find ways to pay the bills. 

Accomplishing the above is going to be tough after years of doing little-to-nothing to even try and build on a dwindling base. As a matter of fact, the bad business of boxing has all but intentionally run fans-- both casual/curious followers to hardcore loyalists-- away. With fighters divvied up among competing networks/promoters/boxing companies and tied to exclusivity deals, good fights are harder to make. And as competition makes for elevated purses that fall well beyond the market's ability to pay for them, the remaining loyalist fans are being asked to pay more and more for, essentially, less and less quality. 

Arum had a big role in making this mess. He should at least have the decency to stop shaking his angry, shriveled fist at the problem he made and stop piling dirt on a guy he failed as a promoter. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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