Bud Crawford and Bob Arum: What It's Really About

The news that Terence Crawford is pursuing legal action against Bob Arum for alleged racial bias is being misinterpreted as being about alleged racial bias.

There are a number of things that could be said about Arum. He throws tantrums when his fighters fail to become stars — go back and see his comments on Rigondeaux after his dismantling of Nonito Donaire, something that held Donaire back from superstardom. He makes off colour comments about other fighters — the Floyd comments don't really have a defense, but they also have nothing to do with Terence Crawford unless it can be proven that Arum has such an extensive history of racist behaviour that it could be reasonably assumed his judgment is clouded. He has been accused several times of failing to properly promote fighters — an accusation for which he has the readymade response of the fighter needs to do a better job promoting himself.

I don't much like Bob Arum. I think he is a sleazy weasel of a man and has spent most of the past twenty years tangled up in lawsuits and being accused of everything from fight fixing to racial discrimination. Some of that is fair and some of it unfair but in a sport where the protections for boxers against financial exploitation is next to nothing there is always good reason to be suspicious of promoters. It is in the best interest of promoters to fuck over the fighters. Not everyone is Floyd Mayweather, able to rely on their own vast financial resources to promote their own careers.

No one really thinks this is an issue of racial discrimination. Bob Arum is a 90 year old white guy — I would be shocked if he didn't make some vaguely offensive comments occasionally. The issue at hand is money. It is always money. Just like last week when The Athletic was sold for half a billion dollars to the industry they set out to destroy. Just like the rumoured sale of ESPN to Apple as Tim Cook tries to head Amazon off at the live sporting event pass. Just like Mikey Garcia's lawsuit against Top Rank. It is always about the money.

Terence Crawford is no worse than a top four fighter across all weight divisions. That his most difficult opponent at 147 was a ready-to-retire Shawn Porter speaks both to the lack of elite talent in the division and the failure of promoters to work together to make fights. Crawford is suing Arum for $10 million. Likely far less than a potential Spence fight would have paid him, but the heart of this lawsuit is about recouping lost time and lost money. Crawford and Spence should have been made by now. Some of that is on Arum. Some of that is on Al Haymon. Some of that is on the fighters. But you can't sue Errol Spence Jr or his camp. So you sue Bob Arum and hope some of the money he failed to secure for you can be pried away.

The most likely scenario here is that this situation goes quiet and the two parties settle the suit. As they should. Arum does not need a lengthy public litigation. That's death for the shadowy business of boxing promotion. You can't have all these dealings drug out into the public. Crawford likely walks away with a few million as he pursues that Spence fight through other means. Arum has to admit no fault and everyone just moves on. Think of it as a severance package.

I think at the core of this issue is why Terence Crawford is not more of a draw. In part, Arum failed in the myth building around him. In part, Crawford failed to talk his shit in public. And look, Crawford is so obviously better than everyone he fights but it's not always visually apparent to people who don't follow boxing. In the Porter fight, Crawford took approximately two and one half minutes to figure out what to do with him. He landed a right uppercut late in round one that Porter provided all the steam for by lunging in. While Porter had some superficial success, Crawford was content to risk getting roughed up now and then to land his shots.

Even the rough stuff eventually went his way. By the middle rounds Crawford was catching Porter inside, tying him up and walking him across the ring. It was the kind of performance that you had to squint at, but it had almost everything. Crawford was engaging, moving beautifully, being rough when required, and ended the fight with a knockout — that Kenny Porter decided that Shawn had enough does cloud the brilliance of the performance, but Crawford was winning that fight going away.

I don't know why Crawford isn't a bigger star. Canelo never says anything of value to the media and he's able to charge the price of an MLS team for his fights. Some guys just catch fire with the fans. That Arum and Crawford both failed to create more financial success for each other is either a failure of promotion on one or both sides, or it is the vagaries of sport that people simply don't vibe with Crawford. Whatever the reason, don't expect this to go in front of a judge. Arum is a lawyer and Crawford can afford good legal advice. No one actually wants racial justice or justice of any kind. It's about the money.

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