Bob Arum, the 91 year old boxing promoter, is overseeing the weekends’ lightweight title unification matchup pitting Devin Haney against Vasiliy Lomachenko, in Las Vegas. On Thursday afternoon, he moved from the fight game to “real life,” sharing memories of Jim Brown, the NFL all-time legend, civil rights activist, and fate influencer.
Arum worked in the US Attorneys Office in Manhattan after Harvard Law (1956). His area of particular expertise was taxes. Arum left that side of the street after JFK got assassinated. He struck out on his own, latched on to a firm.
The Brooklyn-bred son of an accountant had a client in the closed circuit business, Lester Malitz. The Ernie Terrell v George Chuvalo (11-1-65; Terrell won via UD15) WBA heavyweight title fight wasn’t being buzzed about.
“It wasn’t my business, but they asked me for ideas,” Arum told FH.
“It was 1965. There’d never been a black guy doing commentary on sports, so I looked. I tried Willie Mays. Through a friend, I found Jim Brown, who was still playing football (it was his final NFL season). Monday nights were closed circuit nights. Paid him $500 bucks.”
Arum and Brown more than stayed in touch. “We became close friends,” the promoter said. “He said to me, ‘You shouldn’t be the lawyer. You should be the promoter.”
Arum demurred; whadda I know about all this? “There’s only one guy that I’d consider that for, Cassius Clay.” He’s all tied up, Arum stated. No, he’s not, Brown answered.
Some time passed; Arum, then based in an NYC office, got a call.
Jim Brown, suggesting Arum meet up in a local hotel suite with Clay and Herbert Muhammad, who called business shots for The Greatest.
The meeting proceeded, and Arum’s entry into the sweet and savage science cemented.
A company formed, which became Top Rank.
Jim Brown, who grew up in Nassau County, Long Island, before attending Syracuse, bonded with another guy with a sharp mind and some NY-style edge.
Yes, the man regarded by some as the all-time greatest athlete ever made is more than kind of responsible for the presence of the iconic Arum in this space. “He was a shareholder in the company which became Top Rank,” Arum said. “Jim Brown started it all.”
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