Bob Arum & Don King Reminisce About Boxing’s Past

Legendary promoters Bob Arum and Don King took a stroll down memory lane on Thursday, recapping their 80-plus combined years as two of boxing’s biggest and most powerful promoters.

Here are quotes from their one-on-one encounter:

Bob Arum:
“There’s never been a better salesman in boxing than Don King. I worked my tail off as a promoter because I had such a measuring stick, a bar to reach. I think Don made me a lot better a promoter than I would have been and I think I made Don a better promoter than he would have been.

What are your crowning moments in promoting?

“My crowning achievement is when De La Hoya fought Trinidad and Trinidad got the decision and Don was gloating on the microphone when I pulled the plug. And they couldn’t hear him anymore. That was my crowning achievement.”

Does that include when you pulled Don out of the ring during the Hagler-Leonard fight?

“That was second.”

“If Don had Mayweather and I have Pacquiao, I didn’t say the fight would be made in a day. I said the fight would be made within one hour. Don and I would have cut to the essentials. We would have worked out the few details and we make the fight. Mayweather would do well to go with Don. It would be one of the greatest promotions ever.

“Don and I first worked together on the Ali-Frazier III fight in Manila . But the one we really did a great job on – because boxing on closed circuit had really died from 1976 to 1980 – was the first fight between Leonard and Duran in Montreal . That one set all kinds of records and had the country really nuts. That was the first promotion of this modern era and a great success. And that was the first pay-per-view fight.”

Don King:

“I never would have known how good I was if I wouldn’t have had Bob Arum. So I’ve always been able to be a promoter of the people and for the people and by the people with my magic lines and my people ties. And so when you have somebody who is formidable you have to deal with what is real and you cannot rest on your laurels. You’ve got to make the next one better than the last one. And so he’s always been there sniffing at me which means I have to go out there and work that much harder to bring the people the best in boxing.”

When did your relationship with Bob go from acrimonious to harmonious?

“We’re not acrimonious, we’re promoters. And that’s what we do. We have to seize the environment and take time to see what’s going on and figure out what’s the best way for the promotion to go. If it needs a little acrimony then we’ll give them a little flavor of acrimony. You can’t cook with cold grease. You’ve got to turn the stove on. You can’t bake a cake without electricity. So you’ve got to take each one as they come. But no, I’ve never just hated him. Get even with him? Well absolutely. So how do you pay back? You can’t just go out there and jump on his back or punch him. So you work hard to find ways to show a punch to the kidney. Or a little embarrassment here or a hilarious situation there. At the same time you’ve got to wait for your fighters to be able to fill the prophesy. So we use it interchangeably so you have all the ingredients that makes it necessary to have a great fight?

“You will never be able to replace boxing as a sport. What Bob and I have seen is boxing going down because there were no heroes. And so what we did was come together to save a sport that has been so good to us and to the American public. From the Rumble in the Jungle to the Thrilla in Manila from all the great fights including Hagler-Hearns, now we want to give the people what they really want to see and that’s the excitement of a great prize fight where the fighters come to fight. So it’s our commitment to give something back to the people and not just take, take, take and then whine when you don’t get anything back. Let’s show people what we can do and that’s what we’re doing.

What are your crowning moments in promoting?

“My first would be when I had Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle and he did something that nobody else thought he’d be able to do when he beat George Foreman. That set the tone for a whole new era. For Ali to pull that out that then led to so many more crowning achievements … Everyone in the press predicted he was too old and he was finished and he wouldn’t beat this giant of a man in George Foreman and he won. That was a crowning achievement.

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