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The future of Top Rank

Top Rank
Michael Marley considers what the promotional giant Top Rank might look like without their colossal 88-year-old leader Bob Arum

IT won’t change Bob Arum’s obituary, most of which has already been composed by the New York Times and others (a habit in the news business when it comes to celebrities and other notable people), but the powerful boss of the Las Vegas-based world-conquering fight promotional company may be part of a sea change in the combat sports industry even when he has departed.

I’ve spoken in recent weeks with more than one boxing personality who believes that, with Arum turning age 89 come December, chances are that, putting the phoney baloney Dana White/Arum feud aside, Top Rank and the White dominated UFC may join forces under one Nevada roof.

It could be said that Arum’s outfit, boasting of promotional ties to blockbuster ring talents Tyson Fury, Terence Crawford, stylish Vasyl Lomachenko and budding superstar Shakur Stevenson [pictured below] and a huge ESPN TV package deal, has never been more attractive to possible suitors. And that is without factoring in the glorious company fight library which harkens back to the golden era of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Shakur Stevenson
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

No one I spoke with envisions corporate change at TR while “Uncle Bob” is alive and kicking. Arum will continue to rule the roost with stepson Todd duBoef, now age 52 and with 27 solid years as the Number Two, doing most of the day to day detail work.

Despite the feigned acrimony with White, Todd and his sister, Deena, have long been social friends, moving in the same elite Vegas circles, with the UFC’s bombastic bossman.

As one observer told me, “Bob and Dana are both often abrasive, but Bob gets a pass due to his advanced age.”

So, what could change after Arum’s passing? Fight manager and Wall Street finance veteran Arnie Verbeek had some bubbling ideas. “I can’t know what Bob sees as his legacy, but he has a history of seeking big and innovative deals,” Verbeek told Boxing News. “Bob is still calling the shots obviously but one possible path to the future would be a huge structural change where the UFC backers leave Todd in place and let Dana and Todd take the steps necessary to go public, sell stock and haul in mind-boggling amounts of money.

“They are both in the same business and it may stimulate boxing and MMA, bring younger fans into the boxing audience while keeping them into the UFC,” the Dallas resident who managed Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker to a world title and a $2 million purse said.

I mentioned DAZN as a prospective buyer if TR is ever a willing seller, but Verbeek thinks that is very unlikely. “DAZN is more like Netflix, they want to buy content and stream it,” Verbeek said.

Now let’s roundup some more of the usual and possibly unusual suspects from outside of Las Vegas. To me, a delicious irony would be if former TR “Franchise Fighter” Oscar De La Hoya and his Golden Boy Promotions went after the company. Obviously, both companies have masterfully mined the market for Latino ring attractions.

As Verbeek sees it Oscar’s Outfit might not be able to offer the capital infusion that UFC/Endeavor may be willing to deliver.

“No disrespect to Oscar and his company but you need a banker type like Richard Schaefer [formerly second in command at Golden Boy] and you need to go to the public market,” Verbeek said. “The initial public offering has to be massive to get it rolling.”

Verbeek emphasized such a flowering IPO and the combined muscle of Top Rank and the UFC would mean more profits for the investors and even richer purses for both UFC warriors and for boxing stars. “Effectively, it would be a merger of the top two companies in combat sports.”

Rival promoter Lou DiBella thinks decisions by Arum first and DuBoef second will determine directions for TR in the post Arum years. “Bob got into boxing and turned into a boxing lifer. Now does Todd see himself in a similar light, does he want that legacy for himself?” DiBella said. I’m sure Bob, [his wife] Lovee and Todd have discussed such important matters.

“The organisation, keeping its key staffers, figures to go forward. But I think Dana has taken a long look at boxing, has seen how screwed up it is, and will stick to their UFC plans. Without making a giant investment in boxing, Dana and the UFC will stick to their mothership. Dana’s not rushing into boxing now.”

Speaking to Thomas Hauser, when writing for Seconds Out in 2010, Arum indicated that he would be happy if Todd is happy with running TR. “I’m a practical guy,” Arum said in a long profile about Todd. “Dead is dead.”

But rumors and speculation regarding the post-Arum era are very much alive.

Read our feature on how Top Rank are bringing back boxing here

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