Business of Boxing: Arum’s Just Keeping Out the Enemy
by Charles Jay
You probably haven’t heard very much about this, but a mini-controversy erupted after the recent Pacquiao-Marquez fight. This one had nothing to do with the judges’ decision on the fight; nothing to do with the talk of a rematch; nothing concerning who got paid and how much.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
The issue at hand grew out of the fact that Bob Arum, the promoter of the fight, allowed Lem Satterfield to have press credentials, but shut out the other two designated representatives of Ring Magazine, Doug Fischer and Michael Rosenthal.
Actually, all of them might have been stiffed, but Arum, I’m told, likes Satterfield, perhaps dating back to when he covered the boxing beat for the Baltimore Sun.
You see, this incident was not about snubbing some members of the media, nor was it about not having enough space. It was about keeping the competition outside the door.
It’s not that Arum has his own boxing publication or website, at least not to our knowledge.
Most members of our readership may be aware of the fact that Ring is owned by Oscar De la Hoya, which means, in effect, that it is controlled by the same man who controls a major promotional company, in what was an obvious attempt at vertical integration.
So all three of the writers work, for all intents and purposes, for a promoter that is not only a direct rival of Arum’s, but an antagonistic rival at that. In fact, the promotional company in question, Golden Boy, was actually created as a result of a falling-out between De La Hoya and Arum.
If you are going to trumpet yourself as a legitimate media outlet while at the same time fall under a promoter’s thumb, this kind of treatment goes with the territory, and truth be told, should not at all be unexpected.
But the reaction was as if it was an unconscionable thing. The Boxing Writers’ Association of America took up the issue on the part of the writers, who thought they were being unfairly treated.
A quick look at BWAA “standards” may be in order here. Let’s first recognize the establishment of a “Credentials Grievance Committee” that apparently would address this issue. It’s kind of nebulous as to what the leverage is, but on the organization’s official website it reads,
“The credential grievance committee urges either side to broach the subject early to prevent situations from deteriorating into something significant — but not before trying to address it personally and professionally with the other party.”
That doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that would stop a guy like Arum in his tracks.
There is also a questionnaire the BWAA issues to prospective members, posted clearly on the website. One of those questions goes like this:
(7) Have any of your fight-related expenses (for example, hotel and travel) been subsidized by a promoter, sanctioning body, manager, or other member of the boxing community other than a publication that you have written for? If the answer is “yes”, please explain.
This is not a “getting-to-know-you” exercise. This is part of a process that is designed to be EXclusive, rather than INclusive, as the BWAA filters out guys and gals who, in their minds, don’t belong.
Well, it’s then debatable as to whether the Ring guys do in fact, belong, but that isn’t my decision. They don’t participate in making the business decisions with the promotional organization itself, as the BWAA will tell you, so the conflict of interest isn’t enough to bump them down to “auxiliary” status.
I’m not sure I quite go along with that, but it’s a subject that needs to be dissected in much more detail than is available here, as we explore the “Business of Boxing.”
I don’t question the integrity of any of those chaps. And in all fairness, Ring did give Arum’s event some nice coverage. But the bottom line is that these guys work for a promoter, and I’ve been around this business long enough to know that eventually, push comes to shove. Promoters ultimately serve their own interests, and they instigate things, no matter how subtle, to further those interests. .
If the writers are being paid by Ring, they are getting paid by a promoter, and if they are covering fights for Ring, they are traveling on the dime of a promoter. Not only that, sometimes they are covering the fighter/owner, his promotional company and that company’s fighters, being paid to do so and without, I might add, making the appropriate disclaimers.
Most people were not born yesterday. Know what I mean?
In the end, Arum will still let only one Ring writer into his events, but that will be a writer Ring will designate at its own discretion.
Under the circumstances, to concede even that, Arum probably went well beyond the call of duty.