Bob Arum Looks to China for the Future of Boxing, and the Money


by Boxing Insider Staff

Bob Arum has always been a guy who knew how to look to the future.

And he is adamant that the future is in China.

The chairman of Top Rank, who has just completed a show in Macau, a special administrative region of China that allows full-scale casino gambling, figures that is where the money is going to be, and the numbers certainly seem to bear him out.

“It’s a country of 1.4 billion people and it’s a country that’s emerging economically to be a real super power,” he told an interviewer this past week. That is the kind of giant marketplace – largely under-served – that Arum wants to exploit.

Arum brought the pro debut of Chinese Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming, along with two world title fights, to the Venetian Resort-Hotel this past weekend, and knows that Zou could be his ticket to doing even bigger things there. In fact, he said that he got a rather lukewarm reaction to boxing from the casinos because of the money involved in putting on a show, but when Zou’s participation became a part of it, “the money didn’t matter.”

We wish we could say that the whole thing has been a master stroke on the part of Arum, but the truth is, he had to get a little lucky. He hadn’t heard of Zou Shiming, even after the Olympics, and only got interested after one of Zou’s representatives had called his office.

He believes that the four-round fight with Eleazar Valenzuela may have drawn as many as 300 million television viewers, which would make it the most widely-viewed fight in the history of television, and he says he will be coming back for more in the summer.

After that it could be a fall fight involving Manny Pacquiao. Arum has indicated as much this past week. Pacquiao obviously has some drawing power with the Asian crowd, and he has been very clear that he is not interested in fighting in the United States because of the tax situation. The tax burden on him would be much lighter with a fight in Macau.

With all of Zou’s experience in the amateur ranks, which included at least eight years at the world championship level, it’s not inconceivable that he could be fighting for a world title as a pro within, say, eighteen months. That will undoubtedly produce a huge payday for him, considering that the four-rounder he just fought earned him $300,000.

Las Vegas has long been known as a venue where world championship fights have been staged with the financial support of the casinos. Macau could be poised to take its place. It is already the world’s largest gambling destination, with $38 billion in gaming revenues last year, and $3.9 billion reported to have been taken in by the casinos in March of this year alone. That represented a 25% increase from a year ago, and also exceeded, by approximately 9%, the record for most revenue in one month. The estimate for this year could be as much as $44 billion.

Macau’s casinos (over 30 of them, most of which are open 24 hours a day) generate about six times the amount of money as the entire Las Vegas Strip. And that is not exactly a new development; the territory overtook Strip casinos in the revenue category back in 2007.

Yes, Arum is onto something.

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