By Jake Donovan
Bob Arum couldn’t have been more pleased to have delivered the type of big fight his star welterweight pupil, Terence Crawford had long craved.
The Hall of Fame promoter and his Top Rank team were able to secure the services of Amir Khan for an April 20 welterweight title fight to air live on ESPN Pay-Per-View. It meant reaching across the aisle and having to work with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, with whom Khan entered a three-fight agreement more than a year ago.
“Look what’s happening in boxing. All the other promoters are cooperating with each other,” Arum pointed out during a press conference held Tuesday in London to formally announce the event. “This fight wouldn’t have happened without the cooperation of Eddie (Hearn) and Matchroom Boxing, and they will tell you that.”
Arum and Hearn have done plenty of past business together, but the boxing landscape—particularly in the U.S. market—has since undergone drastic changes. Both are at the head of lucrative network deals, making them rivals on both sides of the pond.
On the U.S. side, Arum’s Top Rank company is the primary content provider for boxing on ESPN and its various platforms while Hearn helped launch the boxing side of sports streaming platform DAZN USA.
Among those with whom Arum has partnered in maintaining a healthy amount of boxing content on ESPN and its ESPN+ streaming service is Frank Warren, Hearn’s leading rival in the UK market. Through that union comes a relationship with BT Sport, Warren’s UK outlet of choice while Hearn has enjoyed a monopoly on Sky Sports.
The aforementioned UK platforms went head-to-head last December, both offering dueling PPV events which left avid fans displeased over the antics.
Still, Arum has marching orders from Crawford (34-0, 25KOs) to line up bigger and better competition moving forward. That meant finding a more desirable option than Top Rank’s first choice, former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo who agreed to terms for a proposed March 23 showdown with the unbeaten three-division champ.
Crawford wasn’t as keen on the bout, requesting that his team keep looking. Efforts to talk to welterweights “on the other side of the street” under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) umbrella proved futile, as former two-division champ Danny Garcia was approached but declined to entertain a multi-million dollar offer for the assignment.
PBC ended 2018 on a high note in terms of laying out the future, reaching lucrative, long-term deals with American cable giant Showtime and Fox Sports, the latter providing monthly shows on its Fox broadcast network and regional cable outlet FS1. With those deals in place, the PBC brass has made it clear that there is enough internal talent to go around to keep everyone happy and healthy while in-house.
Fortunately for Arum—and Crawford—a welterweight outside its own reach was able to be secured. Khan spent the better part of the past month mulling over Top Rank’s generous offer, while also considering an in-house assignment of his own—a long-demanded domestic showdown versus Kell Brook, as both are currently under the Matchroom Boxing banner.
Khan chose the perceived tougher of the two assignments, much to the delight of Arum who couldn’t resist taking a shot at his favorite out-of-the-ring rival while celebrating his own ability to work with others.
“Along with this one, we’re working on another show with (130-pound titlist) Miguel Berchelt) against Oscar de la Hoya’s fighter, Francisco Vargas,” Arum pointed out of the recently announced March 23 headliner which will air on ESPN.
de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions is also part of the DAZN family, having entered a long-term pact late last year following the demise and eventual closing of HBO’s 45-year run in the boxing business. Despite his own love-hate relationship with Arum, the Hall of Fame former six-division titlist saw the value in securing a title fight rematch for Vargas, even if it meant on another promoter’s platform.
“The only promoter in the world that will not allow his fighters to fight anyone (else's fighters) is Al Haymon and PBC,” Arum insisted. “So, don’t say that all promoters won’t make fights and will protect their fighters.
“There’s one culprit and one culprit only, and that’s Al Haymon and his PBC. If he wants to stick his people in this really small bundle that he has, fighting each other or not fighting (at all), he’s entitled to do it. But he’s hurting boxing.”