Bob Arum has been at the boxing game a long time, and he and his company are still going strong. Top Rank narrowly outpointed Main Events in a tight race to win the 2012 BLH Promoter of the Year award.
Arum and company had their strengths in the big events. Pacquiao-Marquez IV and Chavez Jr-Martinez were notably big nights for the sport, and incredibly enjoyable overall, and Pacquiao-Bradley was also one of the biggest fights of the year. Top Rank was also the company behind Nonito Donaire's big year, and put on fights like Rios-Alvarado, which was such a good matchup on paper that it was almost a surprise it was actually made, and then it managed to exceed expectations somehow.
Main Events made it a race by plugging away with good matchmaking for their NBC Sports series, as well as getting their brand on network TV, when Adamek-Cunningham II went to NBC on December 22. It's been a while since one of the "big two" in the United States has drawn this sort of consistent attention, and it's a real feat that Kathy Duva and her team were able to shine the way they did, without backing from HBO or Showtime, or any big-time, big-stage events. They promoted boxing closer to the old fashioned way, mixing it in with a good TV deal and a commitment to providing entertaining fights instead of mismatches.
Golden Boy, which also brought boxing back to network TV on CBS, came in third, with Matchroom Boxing and DiBella Entertainment also receiving votes.
I went with Main Events here. I was one of those who worried about them having an exclusive output deal with NBC Sports. Having seen so many promoters throw increasingly lazy, cheap, showcase-structured cards onto platforms like that -- Top Rank on Versus, anyone on FOX Sports, Golden Boy's regrettable takeover of Solo Boxeo Tecate, etc. -- it was easy to be concerned that Main Events might start out with good intentions, and then turn it into, "Look at this fighter here that we promote in a weak fight." Their final NBC Sports show of the year had some of that vibe, to be honest (Jennings-Tupou), and then it wound up being a good fight with a great knockout finish. They also got boxing back on NBC with Adamek-Cunningham II. For a company that is so limited financially compared to Top Rank and Golden Boy to pull off the year they did is remarkable. All hats should be off to Kathy Duva and her team. They were great this year, and they're starting 2013 right, too, with Campillo-Kovalev.
I went with Matchroom Boxing at No. 2. Eddie Hearn has changed the landscape of British boxing. Some might doubt that this is for the best, as he's monopolized Sky Sports and there is the lingering fear that Matchroom-Warren will turn into the UK version of Top Rank-Golden Boy (it's not far off already), but he promoted big cards with Carl Froch and proved that Kell Brook, if promoted aggressively, can indeed draw in Sheffield. In third place for me was Top Rank, but Golden Boy was not far behind, and GBP did a lot of great things this year. In all honesty, boxing promoters weren't quite so loathsome in 2012 overall. What is the world coming to?
Main Events accomplished two major things in 2012. They brought regularly televised boxing back to the east coast with NBC Sports and they even put it on regular NBC once, too, network television. Adamek-Cunningham II peaked at a 2.2 Nielsen rating with 3.2 million average viewers. That's the best good news for the sport of boxing I've heard all year. Main Events and NBC somehow pulled that off during an afternoon a few days before Christmas. For a promotional outfit to accomplish that with only a fraction of the resources that Golden Boy or Top Rank have is truly impressive.
It's been quite a year for Bob Arum and Top Rank. While rightly criticised for the enduring refusal to work with Golden Boy for the fights most in demand, such was Top Rank's 2012 that two losses (one controversial, one decisive) for its figurehead, Manny Pacquiao, couldn't even derail.
It was a year where Top Rank handled the best fighter, Donaire; made the two best fights, in Pacquiao-Marquez IV and Rios-Alvarado, with Martinez-Beltran Jr not far off; and hosted two of the biggest events, again, Pacquiao-Marquez IV and, arguably, the bigger-than-expected Chavez Jr-Martinez.