Bob Arum has drawn the ire and attention of his industry peers, as only he can.
Among those stunned by recent comments made by the Hall-of-Fame promoter regarding his star client in Terence Crawford is Arum’s longtime business rival, Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn. Arum has come under fire for recent comments made regarding Crawford (37-0, 28KOs) shortly after his dismantling of former welterweight titlist Kell Brook in four rounds this Saturday in Las Vegas.
From there came the inevitable question of what comes next, to which the top welterweights were mentioned—most of whom fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. To date, Top Rank and Crawford have been unable to secure the services of Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, to name a few. Meanwhile, Top Rank remains on the hook to meet its fighter’s lofty contractually guaranteed purse, which became quite the conversation piece.
“He’s got to promote like [Teofimo] Lopez does. He’s got to promote like Shakur [Stevenson] does… like [Floyd] Mayweather did, like [Manny] Pacquiao did.” Arum stated in a post-fight interview with The Athletic’s Lance Pugmire. If he doesn’t, then who the f--k needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world, but, hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him.
“The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights, a beautiful home. Nobody questions Crawford’s innate, tremendous ability. By beating a naturally bigger guy [in Kell Brook], decisively, that’s a big statement that’s he’s making. The question is, ‘Does he pay the bills?’ Look, you can have the greatest opera singer in the world. If the fans don’t support it, you’re out of business.”
The comments were understandably met with industry scorn, more so after the final TV ratings showed that Crawford landed in the second most-watched main event of 2020. A peak audience of more than 2,000,000 viewers tuned in for Saturday’s main event on ESPN. The figure lands the fight second only to Teofimo Lopez’s 12-round World lightweight championship win over Vasiliy Lomachenko atop an October 17 telecast which came with a greater financial commitment and far more pre-fight promotion.
Regardless, the comments made are not something normally attributed to one of the best fighters in the world—much less one still under contract and in the prime of his career.
“I thought it was so disrespectful to Terence Crawford, to be honest with you,” Hearn stated during a recent interview on The Ak & Barak Show. “I mean you got this guy here, who is pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in the world. As far as I'm concerned, that relationship is over. You can see by that interview, that relationship is over. I believe his contract is up in October, or something like that.
“I don't blame Bob because he's too old to tell lies. He doesn't care. He just don't care. I just feel like... I don't think what Terence Crawford is doing... does he need to do more media? Does he need to be more controversial?”
Segments of the interview were shared by Crawford in his Instagram story on Tuesday.
Crawford has been selective with the media—an understandable approach at times, especially during fight week when you’ve grown tired of repeatedly answering the same questions. In the case of the switch-hitting pound-for-pound entrant from Omaha, Nebraska, it’s become a matter of keeping receipts on stories written and comments made about his career, some of which he felt could have been offered in a different slant.
There is a workable solution to that dilemma as well.
“For me, you have to build on a foundation that you have when you're building a fighter,” notes Hearn. “So let's look at the foundations of Terence Crawford. He's an absolute superstar in Omaha. He's actually a lot of fun. Very funny, very cheeky and he has a very dry sense of humor. He's an unbelievable athlete, he's a very, very strong family man and he's a very good role model. He's an absolute boxing expert. He knows about all fighters. He's probably a historian.
“I'm just telling you as a Brit and as we're finding out maybe it's a little different in the U.S. But, for me this guy has it all. Show me a weakness in Terence Crawford. 'Oh, he doesn't do as many media interviews as we'd like.' OK that can be worked on. That's about personal relationship and trust to make sure your fighter does the right thing.”
Whether or not the situation improves between Crawford and Top Rank remains to be seen. As far as the ability to establish the unbeaten boxer as a mainstream star, it’s all a matter of who is in charge of the process.
“Let's look at what we've got here,” explains Hearn. “We've got a Top 3 P4P in the world. We've got a guy with a great smile, who's funny, who's articulate, who's a family man, an ambassador for boxing through and through, who's American and is a world champion. It's not even a glass half-full situation. It's a glass 90% full situation. You just got to top the rest of the milk up and it's full.
“I love Terence Crawford. I think he's great. I just think he's lost a little bit of his mojo. For me, the last thing you want as a fighter in an interview on ESPN is your promoter standing there and saying 'Well, he's not just really worth it.' [Writer’s note: the interview was actually with The Athletic]. “That's the platform to stand up there and say 'This guy is the best fighter I've ever worked with.’ You have to push it. Everyone watching this interview is now saying, 'This guy isn't much of a star. He's finding it difficult getting fights because nobody recognizes him.' Bad move.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox