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Bob Arum on why a Hagler-Leonard rematch never happened, and his hope to work more with other promoters going forward

The promoter tells the story of when he gave up on Hagler-Leonard 2 ever happening, and how he hopes to bring boxing back with the wider public.

Just last week, we talked about the legendary and controversial 1987 fight between Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, which to this day is hotly debated by many boxing fans.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who promoted the bout, spoke over the weekend with DAZN’s Chris Mannix about the fight, how it came together, and why a rematch never happened.

“Marvin told me after that fight that he had his fill of boxing. Around a year later, I’ll never forget, Caesars Palace was doing an event, it was, like, a tribute to boxing at Caesars Palace. They had Ali there and Leonard and Hearns and Duran and Hagler — everybody was there, we were all dressed in tuxedos,” Arum said.

“At one point, while we were sitting around before the dinner, I was standing next to Ray, and Ray looked across the room and said, ‘Bob, go over and talk to Marvin, and tell him not to be a dope. Let’s do the rematch, we’ll make a lot of money.’

“So of course, I did. I went over and said, ‘Marvin, I’ve been talking to Ray, and Ray said you’ve gotta do the rematch, there’s a fortune to be made.’ And Marvin looked at me in that cold way he could look at somebody, and he says, ‘Bob, tell Ray to get a life.’ And that was the end, and I knew from that point on there would be no rematch.”

Arum also talked about the road boxing went down to fall from its commercial highs in the 80s to where we are now. He noted that the HBO vs Showtime rivalry was a major factor, as well as fighters having long-term contracts with certain promoters, who were in turn content providers to certain networks.

“Top Rank became an HBO supplier, and Al Haymon, when he brought Mayweather to Showtime, then Showtime became the haven for Al Haymon, which became PBC,” he said. “Then later on with DAZN with Matchroom, they became an entity. Very rare was it that fighters went from one to the other.”

Arum says he’s hopeful that more work between promoters and networks can help bring boxing back up.

“I remember when Eddie (Hearn) wanted to do the Ramirez-Hooker fight on DAZN, I had to go to ESPN, which I’m providing fights to, and get permission, which they gave. The partnership in the Wilder-Fury fight with FOX and ESPN and PBC and Top Rank, everybody worked to make it the event it became.

“I look forward — maybe I’m an optimist — to more cross-promotion like that. I think if we do that, and we start churning out Crawford and Spence and a lot of fights that can be made that the public really wants to see, I think that boxing will revive and be back almost the way it was in the 80s with the Four Kings.”