LAS VEGAS -- Top Rank chairman Bob Arum has promoted some of the biggest fights in boxing history, including more than 25 Muhammad Ali fights, and numerous fights involving George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Given Arum’s 49-year history of promoting fights, he has been asked often during the promotion of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, which will take place (finally) on Saturday night (Showtime PPV/HBO PPV, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, if it is the biggest fight in boxing history.
Arum shakes his head. The answer is no, even though Mayweather-Pacquiao is expected to shatter all boxing revenue records.
“Ali-[Joe] Frazier I -- I remember it like yesterday,” Arum said. “No satellite TV, no social media. We only had three television channels. Newspapers were strong and every paper covered it. The world stopped. The entire world stopped for that fight. It became the subject of editorials in papers because of the political implications of the fight. Is this bigger than that? In some ways you could say that, but that would be unfair. You can’t compare eras.”
Arum recalled fights such as Leonard-Duran I, Hagler-Hearns and Hagler-Leonard as being “absolutely huge.”
“We didn’t have pay-per-view back then, but imagine the numbers if we did,” Arum said. “There was no social media back then, but imagine if there was. So I don’t think you can really compare this fight with those fights. But for today, this is the biggest thing we’ve had in a long, long time. It blows De La Hoya-Mayweather away and Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis-Tyson.”
As much money as Mayweather-Pacquiao is expected to generate, Arum can only wonder what some of the Ali fights might have garnered.
“If you don’t have the means of transmission, you can't compare the fights,” Arum said. “When Ali and Frazier fought, we sent the signal on telephone lines, and we could only reach less than 400 [closed circuit] locations. That’s all the phone company could service. We didn’t have enough closed circuit locations. Every single closed circuit location was sold out, and people were running around to find places [to watch the fight].
“If we had enough, just imagine what some of those fights would have [generated]. So this is a huge, huge fight, but I don’t think you can compare with some of the huge fights from other eras.”