Long ago, Bob Arum hung his Harvard Law degree at the U.S. Attorney’s office and specialized in tax law.
It was after moving on to private practice that a chance encounter with a company called Closed Circuit Boxing — and an introduction to Muhammad Ali by former NFL running back Jim Brown — changed his life forever.
Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999, the now 83-year-old promoter and founder of Top Rank, Inc., is still a strong presence in the boxing world.
He brings Terence Crawford and Thomas Dulorme to UT Arlington’s College Park Center on Saturday night for a vacant junior welterweight title fight.
Boxing analysts indicate a Crawford victory could make him the No. 1 contender for a title shot against the winner of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who meet in Las Vegas on May 2.
For Arum, he’s OK with a Crawford-Pacquiao matchup and said it could go down as early as later this year, but more likely in early 2016. Arum said he couldn’t speak to a potential Crawford-Mayweather fight, but would like to see that one, too.
In promoting Saturday’s bout at UTA, Arum visited with the Star-Telegram:
What’s the word on Terence Crawford? “We think Terence is the next big star in boxing. He hits with power. He’s a very talented fighter, very articulate and intelligent in and out of the ring. But Dulorme will be a real test for him. It is a step up in class for Terence. Dulorme has some size advantage and can just bang hard. Crawford reminds me a lot of [former Fort Worth great] Donald Curry, in that Curry was such a great boxer and big puncher. Donald beat everyone until he got caught up in lot of crazy stuff. But before that, he was tremendous. Terence is much more grounded in that sense, but their styles are very similar. I don’t know that the weight differential means much, but style always makes fights. I see confidence in Terence that he’s shown the ability to handle punches and handle bigger guys. Dulorme might hit a punching bag harder, but I think that Terence has the boxing skill to deal with it.”
You’ve been a fixture in boxing now for several decades. Did you ever wake up one day and wonder what life might look like if you’d stayed in tax law? “Well at 83, it would be hard to make a career change now, but yes, I’ve thought about it before. Had it not worked out, there’s no doubt I would have stayed in tax law. But what happened was that in dealing with that at my firm, I met [former Cleveland Browns running back] Jim Brown, who introduced me to Muhammad Ali. That was when all the crap was starting to descend on Ali with his position on the Vietnam War. Prior to that, I had never seen a fight before. I agreed to promote Ali-[George] Chuvalo in 1966, and that fight was supposed to go down in Chicago. But they threw us out of Chicago, and I took us north into Canada. I had agreed to do that one fight and woke up 50 years later still doing this.”
Is boxing better off now than 50 years ago? “Well it’s been interesting to say the least, but the ring is still square, fighters throw the same punches. I’d say now, though, with advances in training and conditioning and better nutrition, fighters are now much better. The biggest change obviously has been the communication. With the Ali-Chuvalo fight, there were no satellites at that time. You only had telephone long lines, and those linked up to buildings. Because it was a monopoly, there were just a certain number of lines and they were all limited because what is now AT&T wasn’t going to invest one of their lines or add additional ones in closed-circuit boxing shows. That meant we were really stuck with only a handful of locations we could go to. Then you had to deal with equipment that was just black and white screens that would break down about half the time. When we entered the era of satellites, that’s when we started to slowly shift to pay-per-view. But even that was 20 years later, and it’s also the reason Pac and Mayweather will make so much money on this fight in May.”
What would you like to see in boxing over the next 10 years? “Well I’d just like to see the next 10 years first, but if I’m lucky enough to do that, I think boxing is doing very, very well. I think making that connection with a younger demographic should include heavy promotion to Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans. But where we’re not doing so well is with Caucasians. We’ve got to find a remedy to that. With a heavy involvement in social media, I think there’s a chance we could bring back a lot of that audience to the sport. A lot of that demographic we lost to MMA, or they moved on to other sports.”
You haven’t been involved in a great controversy since 2009 or so. Are you slipping? “Hell no. I’m so [expletive] good, I’ve already knocked the other guy out before we get to the controversy stage.”
Vacant WBO World Junior Welterweight title
Terence “Bud” Crawford (25-0, 17 KOs) vs. Thomas “Thunder” Dulorme (22-1, 14 KOs)
Saturday, UT Arlington’s College Park Center
TV: 8:45 p.m. as part of a doubleheader on HBO Boxing After Dark
Tickets: $25 to $200. College Park Center box office, online at www.utatickets.com and www.utacollegepark.com, or by phone at 817-272-9595.