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By Zach Arnold | April 10, 2014
Watch the video of Arum sounding off against MGM
“I want to thank everybody… I’m not going to say it. I know that. Yeah. Hell with it. I know that at the Venetian they wouldn’t make a mistake like this. They knew what fight they were scheduled three or four days and they wouldn’t have a 12-to-1 fight all over the building.
“But… that’s why one company makes a billion dollars a quarter and the other hustles to pay its debt.
“Also, none of the fighters on the cards had to pay anybody off to get on the cards unlike how some other people operate on some other networks. That was an old tactic that Frankie Carbo used but it doesn’t go with HBO or with Top Rank.”
Bob Arum was his usual flame-throwing self at Wednesday’s press conference for Saturday night’s fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena between Manny Pacquiao (2-to-1 favorite) versus Tim Bradley. Manny’s getting $20 million and Tim’s getting $6 million for the fight. And given some of the more interesting bouts on the table with Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Mike Alvarado and Gennady Golovkin vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the Inglewood Forum, you’d think everything would be going smoothly for Top Rank.
But watching some recent events transpire with HBO, Showtime, and the bigger state athletic commissions gives me some pause about where Top Rank stands right now in terms of political juice in the combat sports landscape. Arum’s cracks about Mayweather’s fight getting promoted ahead of Pacquiao/Bradley were amusing and on-target but also revealing about where things stand in Las Vegas right now.
Take for example the fight on Saturday night at MGM. The politicos (along with UFC bosses) will likely have their coronation for the new Executive Director of the state’s Athletic Commission. The dog-and-pony show is happening Saturday morning. The two likely favorites are Andy Foster (who wants a lifeline out of Sacramento from Consumer Affair politics) and Jeff Mullen. These are picks straight out of a UFC playbook. Andy Foster is, pardon the pun, the ultimate Zuffa pick. 100% focus on MMA and could not care about boxing except for the really big fights.
When’s the last time UFC paid out $26 million dollars to two fighters for a Las Vegas main event? When’s the last time a UFC show has brought in the whales to the casinos like most of Manny Pacquiao’s fights? You would think that Top Rank would have more political juice in Las Vegas but as we’ll see on Saturday with the coronation of a new Executive Director, it’s Lorenzo & Ratner & Golden Boy who carry the most juice. Bob may book bigger fights than the UFC but the Fertittas have the casino power and have masterfully used their connections to dominate the regulatory climate that oversees combat sports in the biggest states.
Why should Top Rank care? They find themselves on the sidelines in regards to which bureaucrats regulate their business. And then they wonder how an MMA guy like Andy Foster can come right in and take over.
Where’s Top Rank when it comes to politics with the state Athletic Commissions in California, Nevada, Texas, New York, or Florida? Nowhere to be found. They aren’t political movers and shakers. You would think their financial muscle along with HBO connections would move the regulatory needle but instead it’s the UFC, and Golden Boy to a lesser degree, influencing the regulatory politics. This has been one of Top Rank’s biggest mistakes. Bob Arum has his ties to Harry Reid but Top Rank hasn’t used elbow grease to influence politics from state to state.
(Don’t insert any Marty Denkin jokes here. And we didn’t forget about the IBF scandal in 2000.)
And then there’s Arum’s wisecracks about so many of Al Haymon’s guys fighting with each other to get on the big Mayweather cards. HBO helped build Haymon’s influence and look at him now. He’s signing anyone and everyone he can. Showtime & Richard Schaefer are doing exactly what they set out to do. As we recently laid out on Fight Opinion Radio, Ken Hershman has had his ups and downs at HBO. Hershman’s defenders said that he would do a better job at HBO because of the resources and the caliber of people calling the shots there. Showtime and Haymon seem content on watching HBO build up fighters and poaching them when the time is right. HBO’s resources may attract a bunch of promoters, but do you trust Ken Hershman to be the man to lead the way or not? I’m sure HBO is perhaps sitting back and biding their time in hopes that that the Haymon/Schaefer relationship fractures. Where will Top Rank fit into the picture a decade from now under Todd DuBoef? Will Ryota Murata prove to a true ace? Top Rank loves Macau and the Venetian. They know how to put up the right fight posters.