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Todd DuBoef and the Future of Boxing
Todd DuBoef: photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank
By Thomas Hauser
There were whispers when Todd DuBoef started work at Top Rank in 1993.
“Todd is a spoiled rich kid . . . Todd is Bob Arum’s valet . . . The only reason Todd has a job at Top Rank is that Arum married Todd’s mother.”
That was then.
Seventeen years later, DuBoef is recognized throughout the boxing industry as energetic, hard-working, and smart. He understands the economics of the sweet science and its interaction with the new media as well as anyone. Over the next decade, he might be the most important person in boxing. Not the most powerful, but the most important. If he isn’t already.
“Anyone who says that Todd teethed on a silver spoon is missing the point,” Jim Lampley states. “He’s passionate about his vision. He’s a formidable intellect. You underestimate Todd at your own peril. If anyone can lead a revival of the boxing business in the United States, he’s the one.”
DuBoef was born on August 18, 1967. He grew up in Las Vegas before attending prep school on the east coast; first at Eaglebrook in Deerfield, Massachusetts; then at The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut. That was followed by four years at Trinity College in Hartford, six miles from Loomis Chaffee.
At Trinity, DuBoef excelled on the varsity hockey team. “Success as an athlete came easily to me at a certain level,” he says. “And sports were important to me. When I wasn’t in season, I ate right and stayed in shape.” During his four years in college, Trinity notched 83 victories against 19 defeats. Todd scored 59 goals and 74 assists for a total of 133 career points (sixth on the school’s all-time points list).
After graduating from Trinity in 1990, DuBoef moved to New York and worked in commercial real estate. Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, Arum and Lovee DuBoef had begun dating each other and would marry in 1991.
Arum has three children from his first marriage: Richard (a tenured professor of sociology at NYU), John (an environmental lawyer in Seattle), and Liz (a teacher at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn). Each of them came to fights occasionally. None were interested in the business of boxing.
“I could see right away that Todd was a bright guy,” Arum says. “He had no boxing background, but obviously he had a good business mind. I thought he’d be helpful as someone who could relate to the fighters better than I could because of the age factor. I told him, ‘Look; except for George [Foreman], these fighters are all more your age than mine. Why don’t you come to work for Top Rank?’ I had no idea then how innovative he was and how important he’d become to the future of the company.”
“My first impression of Bob was personal, not professional,” Todd recalls. “I knew him initially as someone who was dating my mother. He was warm and respectful. He had an engaging personality. Then he asked if I’d liked to work at Top Rank. Growing up, I’d gone to dozens of big fights with my father. That was when Las Vegas stopped for a big fight. So the idea appealed to me. Being at Top Rank was exciting at first. There was a sexy addictive rush. But there were also times when I said to myself, ‘This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.’”
“The first thing that Todd had to do was learn the boxing business,” Arum says, picking up the narrative. “I liked his desire to soak up knowledge and his reluctance to push himself forward until he had that knowledge.”
DuBoef, for his part, recalls, “There was no pressure on me to do anything except learn. I didn’t have to produce. And I had the best teachers imaginable. The best way to learn from Bob is to watch and experience with him. He’s not an “X’s” and “O’s” coach. And my other teachers were people like Teddy Brenner, Mike Malitz, Bruce Trampler, and Lee Samuels. There’s no faculty in the world better than that.”
“It was a while before we spoke,” Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler remembers. “Then, one day, Todd came into my office and started asking questions; and he hasn’t stopped asking questions since.”
“I first met Todd when Bob began bringing him to meetings at HBO,” former Time Warner Sports president Seth Abraham (the architect of HBO’s boxing program) says. “He was quiet and respectful. When you sat down with him, it was clear that he wanted to learn what you knew. One of the things that struck me about him was that he put a lot of thought into what he was going to say before he said it. And he had the ability to see the other side’s point of view. He didn’t necessarily agree with it, but he saw it and understood it, which isn’t always true of Bob.”
Abraham smiles as he recounts the past.
“After a while, whenever Bob and I had one of our periodic thermonuclear wars, Todd would come in as the peacemaker. One time, Lovee was throwing a birthday party for Bob. I got an invitation and didn’t RSVP because HBO was in the middle of a lawsuit that Top Rank had filed against us. Lovee followed up with a telephone call to ask if I’d come, and I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ Two hours later, Todd called and made the point that my being there could begin the process of reconciliation. So I went out to the party and, soon after that, the lawsuit was settled. I’m a fan of Todd’s. He gives nepotism a good name.”
Over time, DuBoef began to put what he was learning to use. Arum had been one of the first promoters to understand the potential of the international market. “At Top Rank,” Bob says, “we’ve always been proud of our international business.” Todd had been tutored in international sales by Mike Malitz. In 1995, he journeyed to Monaco to attended Sportel [the International Sports Convention for Television and New Media] for the first time.
“Back then,” Todd recalls, “all of the major promoters in the United States had output deals with international networks that guaranteed them a certain number of dates each year, which in turn guaranteed them a certain income flow. They were luxurious deals from the point of view of the promoters with poor oversight by the networks. Over time, most of the deals expired and weren’t renewed. At Top Rank, we made the decision to over-service. That developed a lot of good will, which enabled us to get renewals and also to fill the void that was created when the other deals expired.”
Looking back on DuBoef’s first few trips to Sportel, Arum says, “I realized then that Todd was good and that there was a whole new generation of foreign television executives, the ones who were making the key decisions, who were his age; not Mike Malitz’s age or mine. Todd was talking the same language as these guys, and it was obvious that, sometime in the not-too-distant future, my role would be reduced to telling old war stories.”
Mike Heitner (who has been Arum’s attorney since the 1960s) concurs, saying, “I understood that Todd could be special when he started developing the foreign business beyond what Mike Malitz had done. Todd wasn’t just making good deals; he was outselling HBO.”
Summarizing that time, DuBoef says, “Sportel was the start of my maturation process. And it gave me insight into the demand for boxing at the global media companies. They weren’t just buying one fight. The volume of what they wanted on an annual basis was staggering. It opened my eyes to the broad appeal, not of one fighter, not of one event, but of the brand of boxing.”
Fifteen years later, DuBoef is Top Rank’s indispensable man.
“Todd has made it his business to learn, not just the boxing business but every media innovation and new production technology that comes along,” Mike Heitner notes. “He’s realistic. He has a retentive mind. He’s great with numbers. He’s fiscally responsible, but he’ll spend what he has to spend to do the job right. And he’s willing to take financial risks to bring the business to the next level.”
“When you’re talking with Todd,” says Bruce Trampler, “you hear a lot of Todd’s opinions. But they’re fact-based opinions; not bullshit. And he’s knowledgeable about certain areas of boxing where most promoters don’t have a clue.”
“Todd can take a complicated business situation and distill it to very simple terms,” Seth Abraham adds. “He’s passionate about the business, but he can also be very dispassionate in a good way. He never lets his emotions rule his intellect. He’ll say to himself. ‘Here’s my problem. Here’s my opportunity.’ And then he’ll think things through to a logical conclusion.”
“I’m still the face of Top Rank,” Arum acknowledges. “But Todd does more of the essential work.”
Part of what DuBoef has done over the past decade is to significantly change Top Rank’s business model.
By and large, the business of boxing is a series of one-night stands. Promoters make their money on a fight-by-fight basis. Todd sees things differently. His vision for Top Rank is for a more integrated flow of content that the company will create and transmit to consumers via media platforms that are built for the future.
“Top Rank isn’t a boxing promotional company anymore,” DuBoef says. “We’re a media company. That’s a seismic shift in the business model. It used to be that an event on Saturday was over on Sunday, and what do you do with it then? We no longer value the success of what we do based only on one night. We’ve changed from being in the boxing event business to the new media business. We’re creating assets and viewing our content on a long-term basis.”
“The greatest growth at Top Rank in recent years has been on the production side of things,” Todd continues. “We have our own editors and editing facilities. The Top Rank library [which contains fights promoted by Arum dating back to 1966] is a major asset that we haven’t fully exploited yet.”
More significantly, Top Rank is capable of producing telecasts of its own fights. Roughly two dozen employees work for the company on a fulltime basis. When HBO televises a Top Rank fight, DuBoef supplements the HBO crew with his own staff and freelancers to form an independent crew of thirty-to-thirty-five people. Top Rank uses all of HBO’s cameras plus a few of its own. Then it cuts the HBO feed with Top Rank’s own on-air talent, cameras, graphics, and branding to create a Top Rank telecast for the international market. The company also distributes all of the undercard fights.
For independent pay-per-view shows, Top Rank puts the whole package together with a crew of fifty to sixty people. Its Fox telecasts require a crew of forty.
“I like to think that, when we produce something, we get more bang for our buck than anybody,” Todd says. “At Top Rank, we want our people to push the envelope and be in the forefront of innovation. Be creative. Don’t have the same repetitious shots and the same format as everyone else. We’re always looking to take things to the next level.”
“A full HBO production might be a shade better than ours,” Arum acknowledges. “But that’s like comparing apples with oranges because their producers have so much more money to work with. You have to compare apples with apples. Watch some of our productions and compare them with ShoBox or Friday Night Fights on ESPN2. Showtime and ESPN might argue the point, but our productions are better.”
The fact that Top Rank is capable of producing and distributing its own telecasts is crucial to DuBoef’s plans for the future because it gives the company autonomy.
There’s a school of thought that HBO wanted to help Golden Boy create UFC-type dominance of boxing within the United States and, through Golden Boy, control the sport at the highest levels with “clean hands.” That seems far-fetched. But certainly, the network sought to empower Golden Boy as a counterweight to Top Rank. No one disputes the fact that Golden Boy has been built in large measure on HBO’s dime.
Arum is enraged by HBO’s tilt toward Golden Boy. Todd’s attitude is, “With or without HBO, we’ll survive and we’ll thrive.” Indeed, since Golden Boy signed its output deal with HBO (which gives it a significant advantage over competitors), Top Rank has strengthened it position as the lead promoter in the United States.
“People in boxing value success based on how many television dates they get,” DuBoef says. “You’re a successful promoter if you have dates. But that means you’re completely at the mercy of the doler-out. Our job at Top Rank is to create, to promote, to be autonomous. I don’t want our success or failure to be based on what side of bed a television executive woke up on that morning.”
“Look at how Top Rank has built Julio Cesar Chavez Jr,” Todd continues. “The networks might never want Chavez Jr. We’ve had zero help from HBO, Showtime, or ESPN where he’s concerned. But if the public has an appetite for Chavez, why not feed the public what it wants instead of saying, ‘Sorry; you can’t fight because the television executives won’t give us dates.’”
Individual Top Rank “Latin Fury” cards featuring Chavez Jr have generated as many as 90,000 pay-per-view buys, making them a profitable venture.
After HBO and Showtime turned down comeback fights for Kelly Pavlik and Miguel Cotto in early 2009, Top Rank mounted a two-site show on its own. The Pavlik-Cotto doubleheader sold out in Youngstown (where Kelly fought), did nicely at Madison Square Garden (where Miguel performed), and engendered a reported 140,000 buys.
“Todd taught me that complaining and moaning about not getting dates gets you nowhere,” Arum says. “So now, when we can’t get dates, we do our own shows.”
At the same time, DuBoef has continued to build Top Rank’s international business. “When we do a big event like a Manny Pacquiao fight,” he says “it’s distributed live in about one hundred fifty countries. We have pan-regional deals in Latin-America, Africa, Asia, and Europe; so many of the same countries get other Top Rank shows on a live or delay basis.”
Top Rank is now the world’s biggest provider of content to the international market. Moreover, unlike other American promoters, it has drawn a line in the sand with HBO and successfully insisted on keeping foreign rights to all of its fights.
What would happen if HBO demanded international rights and said that the issue was a deal-breaker?
“HBO is a service in the United States,” Todd answers. “Its subscribers are in the United States. International rights constitute a revenue stream that belongs to the promoter. We understand each other on the international side. Top Rank is in that space.”
Meanwhile, DuBoef is an evangelist for the new media. “There was a time when everyone in boxing was completely engaged with the conventional media,” he notes. “When online came around, it was an afterthought. MMA had no penetration with the conventional media, but it was cyber years ahead of us with the new media. I’m not an expert on it, but I have guys who are. I’ve hired young media managers and given them free reign with the Twitters, the YouTubes, MySpace. The symbiosis between boxing and the new media is growing and will be increasingly important to us in the future.”
As for what that future will be; DuBoef believes in what he calls “the brand of boxing.”
“There was a point where I became very frustrated,” he says. “All I heard was ‘the sport is dead.’ It was morbid and depressing. Then I had an epiphany. I said, ‘Wait a minute. We get six thousand people for a weigh-in in Las Vegas. When Manny Pacquiao is on terrestrial television in the Philippines, we do a 98-percent share. Wladimir Klitschko did a 51-percent share in Germany against Eddie Chambers. Boxing is not dead.’”
“One of boxing’s problems,” Todd continues, “is that, unlike other major sports, we have no public relations effort keyed to promote boxing as a whole. The NBA has ‘I love this game’ and ‘Amazing!’ Major League Baseball tells you that it’s "fantastic" and a life-long bond between fathers and their children. In boxing, virtually all of the publicity is keyed to a specific fight and, on a few occasions, to a specific fighter.”
“If you ride the coattails of the sport, you’ll be fine. It’s like the movie business. Stars are important; sometimes sequels work. But stars come and go. The brand is movies. Top Rank built Oscar De La Hoya. Top Rank built Floyd Mayweather Jr. We did well with them and we’re doing well without them. The brand is boxing. Every fight has the potential to be memorable. There’s incredible drama in the moment when a fighter walks to the ring for a major fight. That feeling, that energy, is unique to boxing.”
Now DuBoef is on a roll.
“One of the things we have to do - all of us in boxing - is put an end to the in-fighting. People in boxing are horrible when it comes to infighting and vicious behavior in the press. We’re constantly demeaning the brand by demeaning each other’s product. Bob does it too. It’s stupid and it hurts the sport. Jerry Jones doesn’t say, ‘Don’t watch the Giants against the Eagles; that game sucks.’ David Stern doesn’t run around saying, “This is a miserable fucking business.’ I love it when someone puts fifty thousand people in an arena in Germany to watch Vitali Klitschko against Kevin Johnson. I don’t say, ‘That was a lousy fight.’ If the people who run boxing are negative, how can we expect the public to react positively to our product?”
One of the keys in DuBoef’s mind to building the brand of boxing is to turn each fight into the best “event” possible. Part of that involves enhancing the overall in-arena experience.
“I’ve learned a lot from watching UFC,” Todd says. “They do a great job of energizing the crowd and keeping it engaged. We have to do more of that in boxing. Other sports have changed their presentation. Baseball added mascots and music. Cheerleaders in the NFL are different from what cheerleaders used to be. Too many promoters today ignore the on-site fan. And too many television executives don’t understand that part of a great telecast is having a live audience that’s involved in the action and having a great time.”
DuBoef is committed to making the experience of watching a fight in the arena more entertaining than it has been in recent years. He spent US$150,000 to rent a light board for the MGM Grand Garden Arena when Manny Pacquiao fought Miguel Cotto. When Pacquiao fought Joshua Clottey in Cowboys Stadium, the arena was bathed in a futuristic silver-blue light.
“Todd is a showman,” HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg acknowledges. “There’s no doubt that he has elevated the big-event feeling for boxing to a new level. For Pacquiao-Clottey, we gave him what we usually allocate for sound and lighting and told him that, if he wanted to spend more, he could supplement it out of Top Rank’s pocket. With the big screen and sound and blue-lit lighting, he made the event feel like a mini-Super Bowl.”
DuBoef‘s work with Miguel Cotto is also indicative of his thought processes.
Cotto was the first major fighter that he brought into Top Rank. “Todd scouted him at the Olympics,” Arum recalls. “He worked hard to sign him. He looked at Miguel as his fighter, and I pretty much gave him free reign to do what he wanted to do as far as Miguel was concerned. The idea for an annual fight at Madison Square Garden featuring Miguel on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade originated with Todd.”
And it became an event.
“I’ve dealt with Todd a lot,” says Madison Square Garden executive vice president Joel Fisher. “He’s not your typical promoter, who comes in, puts up a boxing ring, and has fights. He wants to give the fans more. When he came to us with the idea of creating a franchise with Miguel Cotto and the Garden around the Puerto Rican Day Parade, he said, ‘It will be good for Cotto; it will be good for Top Rank; and it will be good for the Garden.’ So we started with Cotto against Muhammad Abdullaev. Then we had Cotto and Paulie Malignaggi; and after that, Cotto and Zab Judah. This year, Top Rank put Cotto in Yankee Stadium. But Todd was very up front and honest with us when he started negotiations with the Yankees; and I appreciated that too.”
How good is DuBoef at selling his product?
Dana White is the public face of UFC. One wouldn’t expect him to look kindly on Top Rank given the fact that, last year, Arum called UFC fans “a bunch of skinhead white guys watching people in the ring who also look like skinhead white guys rolling around like homosexuals on the ground.”
Add to that the fact that, in the mid-1990s, White wanted to go to work for Top Rank. “They didn’t offer me a job,” he recalls. “In the end, that worked out well for me.”
“Todd is a sharp guy,” White says. “Todd gets it. Boxing is all about ‘let me get as much money as I can right here right now and stuff it in my pocket.’ Todd is different. He knows how to build a product. I like the way he presents his product. The Dallas thing [Pacquiao-Clottey] was incredible. I’m a huge Manny Pacquiao fan. I love watching him fight. Todd invited me to Dallas and gave me some tickets and I tweeted about it. There are 1.2 million people who follow me on Twitter, so it was good for both of us.”
Meanwhile, DuBoef is constantly looking for ways to expand business opportunities for Top Rank.
“Boxing has an almost exclusively event-based merchandise business,” he notes. “There’s no sustainability from fight to fight. The NFL has Super Bowl merchandise, but most NFL merchandise has a much longer shelf life. The same is true of Major League Baseball and NBA merchandise. We have to look outside of the box we’re in.”
“Sponsorships are another area where we’re just coming out of the dark ages. People were dismissive of boxing on a corporate level, and that assumption had been built into our economic models. Golden Boy successfully challenged that notion. Richard [Schaefer] and Oscar [De La Hoya] did a good job of leveraging Oscar to get corporate America to look at boxing. Everyone in boxing can benefit from that.”
“But the biggest problem that boxing faces,” DuBoef continues, “is that we’re cutting off the flow of content to the consumer. If you go back in history, media rode the shoulders of boxing content. Boxing was on the cutting edge of newspapers, magazines, radio, and television; all of which brought boxing to more and more people. Now we’re locked into a business model where fewer and fewer people see our best content. The contraction started when HBO paid large license fees to lure boxing away from free broadcast television. HBO is in the subscriber business; not the boxing business. It took a product that was in ninety million homes and put it on a much smaller platform, and the demographic was further diminished when HBO put boxing on a pay-per-view platform. That took the product away from even more consumers and further marginalized the sport. Now we’ve lost the flow of big fights to consumers. We’ve lost regularly-scheduled big fights. We’ve lost our foundation for the sport. We have to loosen the grip of the current economic model and expose more people to the sport.”
“The current economic model is about appealing to a handful of television executives, not fans,” DuBoef elaborates. “And the lack of vision, the lack of knowledge, and the behavior of some of these executives is very disappointing to me. Maybe I was naïve, but I expected more. Once upon a time, I assumed that the people who bought fights for the networks understood the business. Many of them don’t. And I thought that they’d be guided by a desire for the best content because that’s the best way to sell their product and serve their subscribers. But that’s not necessarily the way they operate. Let’s be honest. Most of these guys are in the job-preservation business. Bob gets angry when he talks about it. I say, the television networks are what they are, just like the world sanctioning bodies are what they are. They’re part of our world, and we’ll deal with it.”
“I’m very proud of Pacquiao-Clottey,” DuBoef says. “I think what we did in seven weeks to create that event was amazing. But I should have explored making a deal with ESPN for that fight. HBO brought nothing to the promotion. They wouldn’t even do a 24/7 series. They did The Road to Dallas as a promo piece. One show. ESPN would have given us four “Roads to Dallas” in 90,000,000 homes. Bob is a creature of habit. He likes things that are familiar and the way they are. But if I had it to do over again; absolutely, I’d discuss Pacquiao-Clottey with ESPN, with CBS, with Showtime. I’m not looking to rock the boat. But I am looking to grow the audience.”
“When Top Rank and Main Events co-promoted Holyfield-Foreman [in 1991], there were 16,000,000 homes that were addressable for pay-per-view. The fight did 1,400,000 buys. That’s a nine-percent buy rate. Now we have 77,000,000 homes that are addressable for pay-per-view. A nine-percent buy rate would translate into 6,900,000 buys. How do we get to that nine-percent number again? On what platform? At what price? Suppose, for a full month, every time you went to Google, you saw banner that said, ‘Click here to order Pacquiao-Mayweather’? That would be a lot bigger than 24/7.”
“The media world is changing by the month and year now; not by the year and decade. Before long, people will be watching pay-per-view on the Internet on a regular basis. There will be a conversion. That’s inevitable. The question is, ‘Who will be the gatekeeper?’ Will it be Google? AT&T? Yahoo? AOL? YouTube? Apple? You can put anything you want online, but you have to create awareness. Once we decide how to create major awareness for pay-per-view online, the technology will take over.”
“But we also have to get boxing back into people’s homes without it being too expensive for our prospective fan base. CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox are in 110,000,000 homes. That would be nice. But if we could get a platform like TNT or TBS to put its arm around boxing the way Spike did with UFC, that would be enough. That would give us 90,000,000 homes; three times as many homes as HBO; almost six times as many homes as Showtime.”
There are things that DuBoef likes to do besides work. “The most important thing to me,” he says, “and it’s not always easy to do, is to balance my life. People in this business are so obsessed and so consumed by it all that they never take a step back. I have a hectic travel schedule. I live in Las Vegas, but I’m on the road a lot. In and of itself, the travel doesn’t bother me, but being away from my wife and son does. Family is more important to me than business. I love skiing, hiking, and mountain-biking. We have a home in Aspen that’s my sanctuary.”
On occasion, DuBoef ruffles feathers. One rival promoter complains, “He’s an elitist. He’s arrogant. He talks down to you. He grew up in privilege, which very few of us did. With Todd, it’s, ‘You don’t understand’ and ‘I just flew in from Aspen, where I was skiing.’ He’s not one of the guys.”
“Todd has a good business mind,” Ross Greenburg says. “He’s very smart. But there are times when he thinks he knows more than he does and more than you do. Sometimes he pontificates. I asked him once, ‘Are you lecturing me?’”
“When I come up with an idea and want to execute it,” DuBoef says, “I’m frustrated when people try to hold me back. I’m open to suggestion. But once I’ve established my position, vetted it out, and feel that I’m right, I don’t like being told that I can’t do it or that it can’t be done.”
DuBoef’s detractors also point to January 6, 2004, when a dozen FBI agents raided Top Rank’s offices pursuant to a sealed search warrant. Rumors swirled regarding tax fraud, the submission of fraudulent medical documents to state athletic commissions, fixed fights, and cocaine trafficking. But no charges against Todd or anyone else at Top Rank were filed.
Six years later, Top Rank is the number-one promoter in boxing and DuBoef is firmly ensconced as a major force in the sweet science.
“Todd is truly the president of Top Rank.” Mike Heitner says. “It’s not an empty title. He hires; he makes deals. He has the power to act independently. He most definitely has found a place outside of Bob’s shadow. And he complements Bob in ways that are good for the company. Bob is impatient; Todd is the opposite. Todd is a conciliator; Bob is more confrontational. And Todd has developed expertise in technological areas that will serve Top Rank well in the years ahead.”
“Todd has matured into an executive with much broader shoulders than he had when he started,” adds HBO senior vice president Mark Taffet. “He addresses issues and problems and differences of opinion constructively rather than by just blowing up. If you disagree with Todd, he’ll listen to your point of view, genuinely think about what you said, and come back with a thoughtful response.”
“I was most impressed with Todd when we were trying to hold Mayweather-Pacquiao together in late-2009 and early this year,” Ross Greenburg notes. “He was the voice of reason in that whole mess.”
DuBoef sees the big picture. He doesn’t just look at things in the moment. He’s always asking, “Where will Top Rank be in five years? What will boxing be like ten years from now?”
“I have a vision of the future,” Todd says. “Not all the pieces of the puzzle are in place. I’m still trying to figure some of it out. I might be dead wrong in my approach, but I don’t think so.”
Meanwhile, the biggest beneficiary of DuBoef’s emergence and growth as an executive has been the man who brought him into Top Rank.
“I can stay active longer because I have Todd,” Bob Arum says. “He’s really the one who runs things now. My involvement on any given fight is as intense or as limited as I want it to be. It might appear to the outside world that I’m as active as I ever was, but I’m not. More and more, Todd is taking over the company and moving it in the direction that he wants to move it.”
“There are so many issues that people in boxing will have to face in the years ahead,” Arum continues. “Nobody knows with any certainty where the technology is going and how fast we’ll get there. Will we do 3-D boxing in theaters? If so, will Saturday night be the right night? How will Internet distribution, which is bound to come, affect pay-per-view? Todd is better equipped to deal with these issues and others like them than anyone else I know. And there are other things, like delegating authority, that Todd does better than I ever did. As Top Rank gets bigger and bigger, it’s essential to do that. He’s the right guy in the right place at the right time. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have him.”
Then there’s the legacy factor. Arum has spent almost five decades of his life building a promotional empire. Is it comforting to him to know that Todd will carry on after he’s gone?
“Not really,” Arum answers. “I’m a very practical guy. For me, dead is dead. After I pass on, as long as the people I love are happy, I’m fine. Tex Rickard left his mark on boxing, and there was no Tex Rickard Jr in boxing after him. I have three children; each of them very accomplished and fulfilled professionally. They’re happy in what they do and none of them would be happy in boxing. Just because I made my life through boxing doesn’t mean that Todd has to. Right now, being in boxing is satisfying to him. If there comes a time when it isn’t and he wants to do something else, that’s fine. If Todd leaves boxing when I’m not around and there’s an afterlife and I can look down, I’ll be thinking, ‘Good for you. You did a great job in boxing while you were in it, and I hope you’re happy in whatever else you do.’”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His next book (a novel entitled Waiting for Carver Boyd) will be published in late-June by JR Books. Hauser says that Waiting for Carver Boyd is “the best pure boxing writing I’ve ever done.”