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Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future


Bob Arum is close to turning 90, has been a boxing promoter for 55 years and yet there is a youthful glow in his eyes as he opens up on everything from Tyson Fury’s next step to his own unusual entry into sport.

“I didn’t fall in love with boxing, I fell in love with Muhammad Ali,” Arum told talkSPORT via Zoom. In fact, the Top Rank boss had never even attended a boxing match before agreeing to promote Ali’s world heavyweight title defense against George Chuvalo in Canada in 1966.

Arum has been a boxing figure for over 50 years and doesn’t seem to want to quit anytime soon despite turning 90
Getty Images
Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future
Muhammad Ali vs. George Chuvalo in 1966 was Arum’s first taste of boxing after serving in the Kennedy administration
Rex

“He was being persecuted in the United States for the stance he took, for not joining the military,” Arum explains of Ali’s stance against the war in Vietnam. “But when I signed on to be Ali’s lawyer and promoter, I imagined myself just doing this fight. And then just become a lawyer again for him.

Arum’s early career – as a lawyer in the United States Department of Justice during the Kennedy administration – was a far cry from fight cards and flash knockdowns. But as he is still immersed in 2021, the boxing virus must have stung him.

“Oh sure, because it’s such an exciting sport,” he says. “But before doing my first fight with Ali, I had never seen a fight before. I was not a boxing fan. I remember when I was very young I listened to a few radio shows when Joe Louis was fighting – I go back that far! But I had never heard of Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, guys like that.

The most remarkable thing is that it continues. Arum is awfully blunt, maybe because he’s long given up on who he offends, from F-bombing reporters to a few rants thrown at Teofimo Lopez, the lightweight star built under the Top banner. Rank.

Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future
Entitled “The War”, the 1985 epic is one of boxing’s legendary fights and one that Arum fondly remembers.
Getty Images – Getty
Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future
People the veteran promoter has worked with read like a who’s who of boxing royalty
Getty Images – Getty

His personal favorite promotions are a look at the biggest fights of the past 50 years. “The Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns fight,” he says, listing them. “The Hagler-Leonard, Roberto Duran and Davey Moore fight at Madison Square Garden. A few Ali-Joe Frazier fights – you can’t pick just one, you know?

“Now that you’ve asked that, I think: what about George Foreman and Michael Moorer? And Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad? And Manny Pacqiauo? I’ve dated so much, with so many great fighters, that whatever roster I make, I’m going to leave something out.

With all the superstars Arum helped build, however, there has to be one that slipped through the cracks: a boxer who never realized his true potential. Surprisingly, Arum picks a world champion who was once ranked among the best pound-for-pound before a rapid fall and grueling retirement struggles.

“Donald Curry was a super, super welterweight,” says Arum. “But at one point he went off the rails because he became a businessman and got lost. And by the time he returned, I gave him what felt like an easy fight with Lloyd Honeyghan – who beat him. And he wasn’t the same after that.

Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future
Arum also promoted Pacquiao’s fights
Getty
Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future
De La Hoya turned pro under the Top Rank banner, but relationships eventually turned sour
AFP

“He fought Mike McCallum in the junior middleweight and boxed McCallum’s pants, then McCallum knocked him out. Sadly, that was it for Donald Curry [as a top star]. And, truth be told, Curry had just as much ability as Sugar Ray Leonard and Bud Crawford.

High praise, although in the UK this story is turned upside down, with Honeyghan’s stoppage being considered one of the greatest victories a British fighter has ever achieved. “Okay,” Arum said. “But again, everything was a loss of focus from Curry. The same happened with Teofimo Lopez [against George Kambosos…]”.

24-year-old Lopez’s upset loss to the Australian is clearly on Arum’s mind. The long-delayed fight came after Triller won a scholarship offer for the competition, before finally stepping down. Arum – admittedly a biased observer – believes Lopez and his team fared better by letting Top Rank handle their promotional affairs.

But Arum knows boxing is not the place to seek loyalty from either side. “I’ve learned to never fall in love with a fighter because they always break your heart,” he once said. Which boxer, asks talkSPORT, did he learn this lesson from?

The biggest names in the promotion

Boxing has had its share of colorful promoters and here are a few, with the biggest names they’ve worked with.

Bob Arum: Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Erik Morales, Terence Crawford, Josh Taylor

Don King: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad, Larry Holmes, Christy Martin, Roberto Duran, Ricardo Lopez

Frank Warren: Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Frank Bruno, Winky Wright, Marco Antonio Barrera, Joe Joyce

Eddie Hearn: Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk, Carl Froch, Dillian Whyte, Katie Taylor, Callum Smith, Tony Bellew, Devin Haney

“Well I did it with De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. And look at Teofimo: they started playing games with the purse offers and everything. You know, sometimes it works for the fighter and sometimes they get their reward, like Lopez did.

Ouch. To be fair to Arum, he doesn’t feel resentful when it works for a fighter moving on. He admitted that Mayweather did a great job of promoting after the “Pretty Boy” left Top Rank in 2006 and became a PPV Cash Cow. “He realized the potential that I didn’t have,” Arum told the BBC in 2019. “He made a fortune.”

One fighter Arum has a strong connection with now is the charismatic Fury. The undefeated heavyweight and his co-promoter memorably shared the karaoke chores on ‘American Pie’ in the ring following Wilder’s second fight in 2020. But as Arum claims Fury is on his way to becoming a big An all-time heavyweight, he is excited for the 33-year-old to increase his business and cement his legacy.

“I hope he sticks to what he has to do; just fight regularly, ”says Arum. “He has to fight at the end of February or the beginning of March, and play three fights next year. To be a real big, you have to fight often.

Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future
Arum is Tyson Fury’s promoter and a good family friend
Tyson Fury – Instagram
Bob Arum worked in the Kennedy administration, fell in love with boxing thanks to Muhammad Ali and shows no signs of slowing down, at age 90 as he seeks to secure Tyson Fury’s immediate future
He was in the ring and was brought in to sign with the larger than life boxer when he won the WBC belt
Mikey Williams / Best Rank

“My feeling for Fury is that he should go straight to a fight against Dillian Whyte. And then fight the winner from Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua. There are people who think Joshua should step down. [from the Usyk rematch], the good thing is. But it will cause great complications, legally, if it were to happen. “

Arum may be close to turning 90, but if he encourages Fury to fight more frequently, he basically intends to work even more next year. As unique as his background in the sport is, Arum’s love for boxing remains keen. talkSPORT has just one more question for a man about to reach the ‘ninth floor’ of life: What is the most important lesson life has taught him so far?

“Well, it is that you are trying – to the best of your ability – to do the right thing,” he said. “Sometimes, even if you try to do the right thing, what you do turns out to be the wrong thing. It happens.

“But I could still live with my decisions. It never tore me apart or made me a bitter person. In boxing so often people do things and when they don’t train they get bitter. And when you get bitter, it’s like cancer gnawing at you. When that happens, you won’t last long.

“So I tried to do the right thing. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. But it never corroded me, because I can always justify myself for what I did.


Bob Arum kicked off the third series of Fight of My Life where he discussed Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Listen to all episodes on the talkSPORT app.


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