Bob Arum started right at the top, and fifty four years later, he’s still moving onwards and upwards on a dazzling roller coaster ride.
A one-time practicing attorney, Bob worked in the tax division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
He promoted his first card on March 29, 1966. Muhammad Ali defended the heavyweight world title at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens against rugged Canadian challenger George Chuvalo and won a 15-round unanimous decision.
Bob planned on staging Ali-Chuvalo in Chicago, but the Illinois State Athletic Commission banned Ali because of his “unpatriotic” remarks about the Vietnam War. So, Arum went north of the border, and Maple Leaf Gardens owner Harold Ballard welcomed Ali and Arum with open arms. Chuvalo accepted the fight on less than three weeks’ notice after original opponent Ernie Terrell pulled out, and the rest is boxing history.
“It was a memorable, crazy time in our country,” Arum said. “After we were kicked out of Chicago, Ballard told us we could bring the fight to Toronto, and he was a man of his word. More than 50 years later, Ali-Chuvalo in Toronto is still the most difficult promotion of my entire career.”
Arum wound up promoting 27 Ali fights and turned Top Rank (incorporated in 1973) into an international brand that has promoted 2,079 fight cards and 655 world title bouts in 42 U.S. states and 92 foreign or international cities.
Many of the greatest fighters of the past half-century have fought under the Top Rank banner, including: Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Johnny Tapia, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Oscar De La Hoya, Timothy Bradley Jr., James Toney, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Alexis Arguello, Michael Carbajal, Miguel Cotto, Emile Griffith, Carlos Monzón, Terence Crawford, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Tyson Fury.
Said Arum: “It has been one hell of a 54-year ride. I am honored to have promoted many of history’s greatest boxers. I could have never foreseen this 54 years ago. I look forward to many more memorable nights at ringside.”