Bob Arum’s public refusal to sign off on a 175-pound full-unification bout unless it satisfies his commitment to ESPN has baffled an executive at a rival platform.
Arum, the longtime head of Top Rank, indicated that he was unwilling to allow his charge, the WBC, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, to fight WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol on a network other than ESPN, the broadcaster with which Arum’s Top Rank has an exclusive output deal.
Bivol is a promotional client of Eddie Hearn, who, through his company Matchroom Boxing, is responsible for providing the bulk of boxing content for the subscription streaming service DAZN.
Immediately after Beterbiev’s recent second-round demolition of Joe Smith Jr. at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Arum informed BoxingScene.com that he had no desire to let Beterbiev fight Bivol on DAZN, which the 90-year-old promoter has consistently denigrated for its supposedly dismal viewership figures. “We ain’t doing a fight on ‘Dead-Zone’ (DAZN) which nobody watches,” Arum cracked.
Asked to respond to Arum’s comments, Joe Markowski, an executive vice president at DAZN, took issue with Arum’s seemingly preemptive combative stance and apparent objection to broaching the topic of collaboration. While cross-promotional events are admittedly rare in boxing, given the competing network obligations of boxing’s top promoters, Markowski thought it was foolhardy nevertheless for Arum to relay to the public that he had no wish to make a fight that would otherwise satisfy the sports’ fans.
“That’s absurd, right?” Markowski said of Arum’s attitude in an interview with BoxingScene.com. “And I’ll tell you why. I’ve got a lot of respect for Bob, but there’s a problem in boxing with promoters and broadcasters refusing to cooperate with other promoters and other broadcasters. Fights will not happen if people have that attitude.
“As a boxing promoter, Bob Arum’s job and the job of his company is to make boxing fights happen that the public want. We are very willing to work with other promoters and other broadcasters for the bigger fights on the pay-per-view platform. We can price match, we can operate in a shared rights environment. We are very willing to do that.
“Boxing promoters’ jobs are to make the big fights happen. Telling the public they won’t because of internal business competition reasons is a surprising tactic to take and a surprising communications line to take to the public. It’s basically you saying I won’t do my job for you boxing fans in making the big fights happen.”
This is not the first time Markowski has questioned Arum’s rhetoric. Earlier this year, Arum made comments about the women’s lightweight unification bout between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano – a fight streamed by DAZN – that were widely perceived as insensitive and retrograde.
“Again, huge respect for Bob Arum, a legend of the promotional game but that’s the wrong way to approach,” Markowski said. “There’s been a couple of things that he’s said recently – his comments on the womens’ fights – that [suggest] that he may not be thinking with all of his faculties. I’m surprised he took that line.”
Markowski reiterated that he and his team are fully motivated to make the undisputed 175-pound fight with Arum’s Top Rank. Markowski said he understands that Arum has a contractual obligation, but he believes that a dialogue between both parties could potentially lead to a solution. Markowski, however, thinks Arum’s actions reflect an unwillingness to find common ground.
“If they want to have a conversation with us about making a deal around that then get in touch,” Markowski said. “They’ve got our email addresses, they’ve got our phone numbers, they know who we are. We are very willing to have a conversation.
“We want to make the fight happen. We don’t want to block fights from happening because of critical, contractual reasons.”