MIAMI – Eddie Hearn is baffled by Bob Arum’s anger regarding Hearn’s company simply bidding for the right to promote the Teofimo Lopez-George Kambosos Jr. lightweight title fight.
The British promoter was particularly surprised by Arum’s controversial comments because Matchroom Boxing didn’t even come close to winning the IBF’s purse bid Thursday for that mandated 135-pound championship match. The 89-year-old promoter blasted Hearn after Hearn’s company out-bid Arum’s Top Rank Inc. in an attempt to bring one of Top Rank’s most prominent boxers to DAZN, the streaming service with which Matchroom is partnered.
DAZN provided Matchroom with the financial means to bid $3,506,000. Top Rank bid $2,315,000 for what Arum deemed “not a marquee fight” during a recent interview with BoxingScene.com.
Triller, a video production and social networking app, won the bid by stunningly offering $6,018,000 – more than Matchroom and Top Rank combined. Ryan Kavanaugh, Triller’s owner, told BoxingScene.com on Thursday that the company’s plan is to have Brooklyn’s Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) and Australia’s Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), the mandatory challenger for Lopez’s IBF title, headline a pay-per-view show sometime in May.
Triller’s winning bid will temporarily take one of boxing’s rising stars away from ESPN, Top Rank’s network partner.
The 23-year-old Lopez’s last bout – a career-defining, 12-round, unanimous-decision upset of Vasiliy Lomachenko – drew remarkable ratings on ESPN. That fight attracted a peak audience of 2,898,000 and an average audience of 2,729,000, ESPN’s highest viewership for boxing in more than three years.
Losing Lopez even for one fight is “a disaster” for Top Rank and ESPN, according to Hearn, who noted that Arum has no one to blame but himself for “this mess.”
“They let it get to this,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday for the Canelo Alvarez-Avni Yildirim fight Saturday night.
“Teofimo Lopez took the chance for small money to fight Lomachenko because he believed he would win and he believed he would get the financial rewards he deserved. But guess what? When he won, they wouldn’t give it to him. And this whole problem has been caused by Top Rank.
“You know, Bob’s been out there, ‘Oh, Eddie Hearn, I’m f--king pissed off that he’s bid and he’s gotta watch himself now.’ F--k off! It’s an open market. If you can’t do a deal with your fighter, and that comes into the open market, you pay the consequences. And the consequences is someone else has popped up from nowhere and taken one of your biggest assets on your platform, for ESPN, and put it on another platform. It’s a disaster for Top Rank.”
Top Rank wanted to pay Lopez the minimum allowable in his contract for a title defense – $1.25 million – for the Kambosos bout. In accordance with the IBF’s 65-35 purse split for the champion and challenger, Lopez would’ve received $1,504,750 if Top Rank’s bid would’ve won Thursday.
Multiple sources have informed BoxingScene.com that had Top Rank offered somewhere between $3.1 million and $3.4 million combined for the purses of Lopez and Kambosos, a purse bid likely could’ve been avoided. That type of bid probably would’ve paid Lopez between $2 million and $2.2 million for facing Kambosos.
By having Triller take control of Lopez-Kambosos, Top Rank now can allocate what it would’ve paid for Lopez’s mandatory title defense and invest it in another quality fight. Top Rank has an approximate $84 million budget from ESPN this year to put on fights.
Regardless, Hearn has taken issue with Arum trying to dissuade him from making an offer in a purse bid. What bothered Hearn even more was Arum’s implication that by bidding on Lopez-Kambosos, Hearn would have more difficulty dealing with Top Rank in ongoing negotiations for a much bigger fight, the heavyweight championship showdown between Tyson Fury (Top Rank) and Anthony Joshua (Matchroom).
“I told him I’d bid,” Hearn said. “You know why? Because they tried to put the fear into people not to bid, and that’s not [acceptable]. Once you do that, all bets are off. If you would’ve come to me, sat down – but what you’re doing is you’re taking opportunities away from your client. So, you want no one to bid so you can get your guy cheap? Is that what you want?
“It doesn’t work like that. We had an opportunity to bring one of the biggest names in the sport to our platform in the open market. Don’t tell us what we can and can’t do. But it’s irrelevant anyway.”
The fact that Matchroom didn’t win the bid didn’t seem irrelevant to Arum. He promised payback during an interview with BoxingScene.com on Thursday.
“For us it wasn’t a big fight,” said Arum, whose company will receive 20 percent, roughly $782,000, from Lopez’s purse for the Kambosos bout ($3,911,700). “No harm, no foul [with Triller winning the bid]. If Hearn won the bid, we’d have a lot of explaining to do to ESPN. But [ESPN] understands that the fight was not worth anything near $6 million. We would have been pissed if Eddie Hearn and Matchroom put in the winning bid. That’s bad policy for him to do that because he has nothing to do with Teofimo. Hearn gets into a lot of purse bids and we don’t ever get involved if we don’t have a connection with the fighter. It makes no sense for them to put Lopez on DAZN. It’s just wrong.
“But he lost and pissed us off at the same time. It sent a message to us. But he better watch out the next time he goes to a purse bid when the fighters have no connection to ESPN or Top Rank. Maybe we’ll jam a bid up Hearn’s ass. We’ll get back at them. I’m angry at them, yeah.”
Hearn couldn’t imagine warning a competing promoter about bidding on a fight that involved one of his boxers.
“It was that one interview that caused a problem,” Hearn said, “where [Arum] said, ‘I’m telling you now, it’s not a good idea for him to bid.’ Whether it was ego or whether it was a bit of aggression for me, I thought, ‘Oh, really?’ It was arrogance, quite frankly. You think that I would phone a competitor and say, ‘Don’t bid on this fight.’ Or, you know, do an interview, going, ‘I’ll tell you what – if you wanna bid on this fight,’ f--king hell! They’d bid double.
“But they created this mess. And when they started to try to force people’s hands, to not bid, it went horribly wrong because we don’t get told what to do. You know? Because we have a job to do. It’s nothing personal. The fight come up on the open market. Our broadcaster told us, ‘We’d like that fight,’ and we bid. What, do we wanna give you an open road?”
From Hearn’s perspective, losing Lopez-Kambosos to Triller is another instance in which Arum has mishandled one of the top fighters his company promotes. Hearn pointed to Arum’s public criticism of Terence Crawford following the unbeaten WBO welterweight champion’s fourth-round technical knockout of Kell Brook on November 14 as proof Arum doesn’t value top talent the way that he should.
“Let’s start respecting the fighters,” Hearn said. “I hear too much talk at the moment of, ‘The fighters have gotta get less money. We’ve gotta bring the purses down.’ And I understand we’ve all got businesses to run. But understand one thing – we’re not putting our lives on the line in the ring. We’ve got a nice life. Bob Arum’s got money. [Top Rank president] Todd duBoef’s got money. Matchroom has got money. I’ve got money.
“Let’s not be arrogant enough to start thinking that we can, you know, gamble with the livelihoods of fighters. And I see too many [negative] comments from Bob about Crawford, about Lopez. I mean, these guys are pound-for-pound superstars.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.