With each passing day, Bob Arum has a clearer view of how to get some of the Top Rank stable back into the ring.
Still at large, however, are the company’s bigger events.
A recent buzz has come from Top Rank’s targeted goal of returning to presenting live events as soon as this June, to take place behind closed doors. Such cards will be the first to take place in the United States since the world came to a halt in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The plan is to stage 2-3 events per week in specified locations beginning in June, with Las Vegas serving as the leading contender while isolated locations in California and Texas are also being considered.
What’s not being considered for the time being are its major fights featuring its star clients, such as the lightweight unification bout between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez which was due to take place May 30 in New York City. The biggest of them all, the third fight between World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs) and former titlist Deontay Wilder (42-1-1, 41KOs) will also remain on hold until mass gatherings are once again able to take place.
“That’s a “wait-and-see”, that fight, I have to be honest,” Arum admitted to ESPN’s Joe Tessitore during a recent episode of the network’s State of Boxing series. “First of all, the immediate problem is that Fury is in England. There’s a travel ban. How do we get Fury over here, assuming we’re going to do the fight in the United States?
“If you say, ‘Well maybe you do it in the UK’, well, there’s a travel ban in the [United Kingdom]. So how do you get Wilder to the UK? So, that’s a problem.”
Fury has remained in his home in Manchester, England since the early stages of the current global health crisis. The unbeaten Brit is among a handful of boxers under the Top Rank banner who resides overseas and will struggle to gain re-entry into the U.S. in the near future.
Even if the travel part is figured out, the economics behind such an event disqualifies it from consideration to take place without fans in attendance, which ESPN is prepared to present. Each of the first two fights between the pair of heavyweight giants aired live on Pay-Per-View, both in front of sizeable crowds.
The second fight—in which Fury scored a one-sided 7th round knockout to win the championship nearly 15 months after the two fought to a 12-round draw—generated nearly $17 million at the box office, and well north of $60 million in PPV revenue.
“You have to do that fight with a live gate,” insists Arum. “The live gate for the last fight, the second fight, the February fight took in $17 million. That was a significant portion of the revenue, that went towards paying the fighters, paying the cost and stuff like that. How do you replace that? The answer is that you can’t,
“[W]e charged $80 for the Pay-Per-View, for persons buying at home on PPV. Two problems with that—can people after going through all this economic hardship, can they afford to pay $80 to watch a fight no matter how attractive the fight is? Secondly, a lot of people—and we know this from all our surveys—a lot of people buy it and have like 10 other couples come over to watch at their house, everybody contributes money. How willing people are going to be to open up their homes to big groups of people?”
The third fight was originally due to take place July 18 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, which also hosted the second fight this past February. The date was pushed back to October 3 due to ongoing global health crisis, though another postponement is expected.
For now, the plan is to take that first step back into the ring and then go from there.
“There are much harder issues to solve than just doing fights in a closed environment, which we will hopefully start to do beginning in June,” believes Arum.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox