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Profile in History: A Salute to Bob Arum

Profile in History: A Salute to Bob Arum

05/30/2012

Few men can wear a cliché well. For most, tired, trite phrases hang on their bodies like old clothes. That's the way nature intends it. But garb Bob Arum in the hackneyed, yawn-inducing phrase "the man, the myth, the legend," and nature winks and permits a rare amnesty, allowing the words to fit the founder and CEO of Top Rank like a tailored suit. Why? Because it's accurate.

Let's work our way backwards from the last superlative in the cliché: the legend. It applies because the New York-born, Harvard-trained former attorney Arum has been promoting fights since 1966, when another legend, Muhammad Ali, defended his world heavyweight title against George Chuvalo on March 29 in Toronto. Since then, Top Rank, under Arum's leadership, has promoted roughly 11,500 fight cards around the globe featuring the following fighters: Oscar De la Hoya, George Foreman, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Julio Cesar Chavez, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, and many others.

It's the most impressive roster in the sport of boxing-one that crosses borders, generations, and weight divisions. And it's helped feed the second superlative in our cliché: the myth. If the latter evolves out of a distortion of the truth-a puffing up of people and events to otherworldly proportions-then it can be fairly said that Arum has often been inflated. This is more than understandable. It's inevitable. Whether these dimensions have a villainous or heroic character, they're measured by the fact that Arum has been involved with some of the most important events not only in recent boxing history, but also in the history of the sport.

From bringing boxing to a fledgling sports network called ESPN in 1980 to pioneering the use of closed-circuit television to helping turn an obscure Filipino fighter named Manny Pacquiao into an eight-division champ and a worldwide phenomenon, Arum has been at the vanguard of the most important evolutions in the sweet science for nearly 50 years. Such accomplishments would have a mythical quality unto themselves. But combined with Arum's outsized personality and fearlessness in the face of public criticism, they become a kind of fairy tale-albeit one written with the unusual tools of the trade: fists against flesh.

And so it is that we come to the man, Bob Arum. Today, the loving father, husband, and head of the sport's premiere promotions company turns 80 years old. Here's hoping that there's many more years ahead. To use another cliché: the man who's seen it all and done it all still has much more to see and do. Fits pretty well, doesn't it?

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