Arum criticizes Crawford’s ‘malicious extortion attempt’

There are many people involved in boxing who are eager to say many unflattering things about Bob Arum, the founder and chairman of Top Rank, the sport’s most prominent promotional company.

Terence Crawford, the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and the world’s best welterweight, is one of them. Crawford filed a lawsuit against Arum and Top Rank in Nevada court on Tuesday.

The crux of Crawford’s lawsuit against Arum, however, is that Arum and his company are racist and mistreat black fighters.

George Foreman, one of several legendary black warriors who promoted Arum to great heights and staggering riches, was shocked by Crawford’s claim. The former heavyweight champion was promoted by Arum in his second act, following his comeback after a 10-year retirement. Foreman regained the title by knocking out Michael Moorer at age 45 in a fight promoted by Arum.

Foreman was outraged when he was informed of Crawford’s allegations.

“He’s no saint, but Bob Arum is one of the best men I know,” said Foreman, who celebrated his 73rd birthday on Monday. “You could call me about 25 other guys, 30 other guys, and ask me that question and I wouldn’t call back. But not this one. Not really. He has a passion for his fellow man.”

In his lawsuit, Crawford alleges that Top Rank “violated its contracts with” [him], and basically ripped him off into entering into any deals at all.” He said in the lawsuit that Top Rank got Crawford into agreeing to fight Egidijus Kavaliauskas to fulfill an obligation to his TV partner ESPN, and not because it was the best thing for his career.

As an incentive to fight Kavaliauskas, Crawford’s suit says:

“Top Rank fraudulently promised to arrange for Crawford to have Errol Spence Jr. would fight, despite knowing that Top Rank could never deliver the promised match. Top Rank also failed to deliver a promised second match under the parties’ promotional rights agreement.

“Top Rank apparently had no qualms about lying to a black fighter or breaching its contractual obligations to him, even though it would never treat any of its white fighters with such blatant disrespect.”

That’s a ridiculous statement, because Arum has fought people of all races, colors and religions over the years. He is aggressive, often short-tempered, rarely bites his lip and often puts his foot in his mouth.

But few have accused Arum of being racist over the years.

Top Rank founder Bob Arum signed Terence Crawford in 2011 and again in 2018. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

In 2020, Arum was asked if he thought Crawford would re-sign with Top Rank when his contract expired in 2021. Arum reacted angrily by saying lightly, “I could build a house in Beverly Hills with the money I spent in the last three fights.”

That may not have been the best way to build a great working relationship, but Top Rank reportedly lost $20 million on all of Crawford’s fight promotions and $3 million on its last fight alone against Shawn Porter.

Arum’s anger at Crawford wasn’t because he’s black, but because Crawford hasn’t done much to help his own business and his fights are bad sellers.

Arum has issued a statement to Yahoo Sports denying all accusations of racism.

“Bud Crawford’s lawsuit against Top Rank is frivolous,” Arum wrote. “The despicable accusations of racism are reckless and indefensible. He knows and his lawyer [Bryan J. Freedman] know it. I have spent my entire working life as a champion of black boxers, Latino boxers and other colored boxers. I have no doubt that the court will hear Crawford’s case for the malicious extortion attempt that it is.”

Antonio Leonard is a black promoter who currently has 14 fighters under contract with Top Rank, 12 of which are black. Not only did Leonard say he’s never experienced racism from Top Rank, he’s never experienced racism from anyone he’s worked with in boxing.

Leonard told Yahoo Sports, “I’ve never experienced anything like it,” when Crawford told him he accused Top Rank of racism. He defended Arum, wondering why Crawford would make such an accusation.

“Bob, he’s my husband and I have no problem with Bob,” Leonard said. “I never have. And let me tell you, I wouldn’t do business with anyone I didn’t like, no matter how much money I could make. I have nothing bad to say about Bob.”

Foreman said, “It breaks my heart,” to hear Crawford accuse Arum of racism. Arum has promoted many of the best black stars over the past 60 years, including Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and others.

He was close to many of them, but none more so than Hagler, the former middleweight champion who died last year. Arum and Hagler were so close that there was never a promotional contract between them and they operated with a handshake.

Arum has three pictures on the wall in his office, and they are all of black warriors: Ali, Foreman, and Hagler.

Foreman said that after knocking out Moorer to win the title, he wanted to kneel in the corner and pray. He told his brother to make sure no one bothered him and allowed him to complete his prayer.

While he was still praying, he was hugged by an exuberant Arum.

“He gave me the most passionate hug and said, ‘George, praise the Lord!'” Foreman said. “If someone accuses such a man of racism, it is wrong. But you know what they say: all is fair in love and war.”

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