Top Rank promoter Bob Arum flew this week to Auckland, New Zealand, ahead of his boxer, Andy Ruiz Jr., taking on hometown hero Joseph Parker for one of the heavyweight titles vacated by Tyson Fury in September.
But whoever wins Parker-Ruiz on Saturday (HBO, 9:35 p.m. ET/PT, same-day tape delay) at Vector Arena, Arum will return home to Las Vegas as a promoter of a heavyweight titlist for the first time since he represented then-titleholder Hasim Rahman a decade ago.
That is because Arum and Parker promoters Dean Lonergan and David Higgins of Duco Events announced at a news conference Tuesday in Auckland that they had entered into a co-promotional deal on Parker, win or lose against Ruiz. Top Rank would take the lead on fights Parker would have in the United States as well as in China, where Top Rank has a growing business.
They announced that the deal would also cover other Duco boxers as well, including up-and-coming Australian welterweight Jeff Horn (15-0-1, 10 KOs), 28, who takes on South Africa's Ali Funeka (39-5-3, 31 KOs), 38, in the co-feature Saturday.
Arum, who will celebrate his 85th birthday in Auckland on Thursday, said his decision to make the deal with Duco Events was not at all a signal that he believes that Ruiz, the underdog, will lose.
"Listen, having been in this business 50-plus years, I don't expect anybody to win a fight, particularly when it's as close on paper as this one is," Arum said. "I really think that the winner of this fight probably has the best chance to be the pre-eminent heavyweight, I really believe that.
"Parker has natural skills. He's so big and he punches so hard, and Andy has the fastest hands that I've seen on a heavyweight since Muhammad Ali."
Arum has promoted Ruiz (29-0, 19 KOs), 27, of Imperial Valley, California, for his entire seven-year career and has had high hopes for him from the start. Ruiz has a chance to become the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight title, which Arum believes would make him a popular attraction on both sides of the border.
But Arum also likes what he has seen from the 24-year-old Parker (21-0, 18 KOs), who often trains in Las Vegas not far from the Top Rank offices. Arum said he believes that Parker has what it takes to become a heavyweight star and that he can help him get to that level.
"But no promoter can make a fighter a star," Arum said. "A fighter has to make himself a star. A promoter can only help by getting the right fights, getting the right publicity, but the idea that the promoter makes the star, as flattering as that is, is just not the case.
"If Parker does defeat Andy Ruiz then we will, together with Duco, perhaps have Parker fight in the United States, then come back here and then fight in China. Believe me, this [is] just the start."
For Duco Events, the agreement with Top Rank will help it bring Parker and its other fighters to a bigger audience because of Arum's worldwide connections and considerable power in the boxing business. He has close relationships with television networks and arenas in the United States and China.
"We have massive global ambitions for Joseph and for a number of other fighters," said Lonergan, whose company will still control any fights and revenue in New Zealand and Australia. "Just because we come from New Zealand doesn't mean to say that we can't do it overseas. In fact, it encourages us to go overseas because our market is so small."