Top Rank chairman Bob Arum was watching on ESPN+ on Saturday as unified junior welterweight world titlist Josh Taylor smoked obscure mandatory challenger Apinun Khongsong in the first round at the BT studio at York Hall in London.
To say that Arum was disgusted with what transpired would be an understatement. The fight was Arum’s first as Taylor’s promoter since signing him in January because it had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was hardly worth the wait.
“It’s a f------ disgrace! A disgrace,” Arum told BoxingScene moments after the bout in a classic tirade.
Arum was disgusted that Taylor was forced by the IBF to fight Khongsong or he would have been stripped of one of his 140-pound belts. While Taylor (17-0, 13 KOs), 29, of Scotland, has unified two belts and beaten the likes of Regis Prograis, Ivan Baranchyk, Ryan Martin, Viktor Postol and Miguel Vazquez, the resume of Khongsong (16-1, 13 KOs), 24, of Thailand, was devoid of even a recognizable journeyman opponent.
“I’m not taking any grief. I will wage a public battle. I am not going to allow a business than I have been in, the boxing business, for over 50 years be destroyed by these organizations,” Arum said, livid that Khongsong had been forced on Taylor.
Taylor took Khongsong out with ease in his first fight since unifying belts against Prograis last October in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. Taylor finished the fight by knocking Khongsong down and out with a left hand to the body in 2 minutes, 40 seconds.
“It wasn’t spectacular,” Arum said of Taylor’s body shot. “The poor guy, a minute later he might have gotten killed. The guy never was in with a world class fighter. Neither has Catterall been in with a world class fighter.”
Arum was referring to British fighter Jack Catterall (25-0, 13 KOs), 27, who has a light resume but is the WBO mandatory challenger for unified titlist Jose Ramirez and who is supposed to have the next shot at him even though Arum wants to match Taylor and Ramirez, whom he also promotes, for the undisputed 140-pound crown in the first quarter of 2021.
“Of course that didn’t get Taylor ready for Ramirez,” Arum said. “It was a waste of time! A waste of time and money, and I can say woe as me because who paid for this? I did. But I didn’t really pay for it; ESPN paid for it but we had to pay (out of our budget with ESPN) to get that fight on. What a waste! I remember other mandatory crap we’ve done over the years. That was not good, but you guys have to write about it and embarrass these f------ organizations.”
Arum said he would fight tooth and nail to have the WBO allow Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs) to bypass Catterall for at least one fight in order to make the undisputed fight with Taylor. Ramirez cleared his other mandatory challenger Postol, a former world titlist, by majority decision on Aug. 29.
Taylor very much wants the fight with Ramirez, who also wants Taylor next instead of a far lower profile bout against Catterall.
Arum said he would soon speak to WBO president Paco Valcarcel about the issue, even though the WBO already has mandated that the Ramirez must face Catterall next.
“Paco is reasonable. We’re going to talk about, but these mandatories are killing the sport,” Arum said.
Arum said he may be in a similar situation as he works with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn to make an undisputed heavyweight championship fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
Joshua is due to make one of his mandatory defenses against Oleksandr Usyk if he beats Pulev later this year while Fury is due for a contractually obligated third fight with Deontay Wilder, which is being planned for December.
But even if Joshua beats Pulev and Fury beats Wilder again, Joshua still is obligated to fight WBO mandatory Usyk, a pound-for-pound caliber fighter and the former undisputed cruiserweight champion. Still, Arum said, that is not the big fight the world is clamoring to see between Fury and Joshua.
“If Anthony Joshua beats Pulev and Tyson beats Wilder again we want to do a Joshua-Tyson Fury fight for the undisputed title and Usyk is the mandatory, but we cannot let that stand in the way!”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.