Promoter Bob Arum erupts, launching incendiary rant at MGM Resorts executive

Kevin Iole
Boxing Experts Blog

LAS VEGAS -- An oversized photo of superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is festooned on the side of the MGM Grand and has for several years greeted visitors who are heading East on Tropicana Ave. toward Las Vegas Blvd.

But it is not that smiling visage of boxing's pound-for-pound king which has made Top Rank CEO Bob Arum so irate. That photo is there as a result of a contract, and Arum said he is not bothered by it.

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He is, however, extraordinarily irate by the prominent advertising in and around the casino for the May 3 Mayweather fight at the MGM against Marcos Maidana. During Wednesday's news conference to promote Saturday's rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, and later in a lengthy and explosive interview with Yahoo Sports, Arum unloaded on Richard Sturm, the president and chief operating officer of MGM Resorts Entertainment and Sports, for being responsible for so much Mayweather advertising.

Saturday's Pacquiao-Bradley bout for the WBO welterweight title is close to a sell-out and promoters are hoping to reach 1 million on pay-per-view. But according the Arum, the advertising for the Pacquiao-Bradley fight is not nearly as prominent as it is for the May 3 Mayweather-Maidana fight because of Sturm.

Arum told Yahoo Sports that Jim Murren, the chairman/chief executive officer of MGM Resorts International, apologized to Top Rank president Todd duBoef. Arum said that Bill Hornbuckle, the president and chief marketing officer of MGM Resort, also made similar promises to duBoef.

However, Arum said "there has been an internal battle going on over there" at the MGM and Sturm made the decision on his own to put the advertising for the Mayweather fight up prominently inside the casino.

It's extremely rare in boxing, but in this case, there is a large red and black Mayweather-Maidana ad just outside the media center at the inside entrance to the Grand Garden Arena. At the MGM's main valet parking area, there is in Arum's words, "A huge, massive ad for that 15-1 fight and just a little thing for our fight off to the side."

"Jim Murren apologized effusively to Todd and he said it wasn't supposed to be this way," Arum said. "But it was that brain dead moron Sturm who did it."

Yahoo Sports reached out to Sturm for comment. Spokesman Scott Ghertner said he would speak with Sturm and determine if, when and how to respond. Sturm has yet to return a call to Yahoo Sports and Ghertner has not released an official statement.

On Wednesday, the large cutout photo became a major bone of contention between Top Rank CEO Bob Arum and executives at the MGM Grand, the venue which hosts the vast majority of significant boxing matches in the world.

What makes the matter worse for Arum are the business alliances. Top Rank has long had a rocky relationship with Golden Boy. Golden Boy is promoting the May 3 show and Top Rank is putting on Saturday's card. Corona is a major Golden Boy sponsor, while Corona rival Tecate is a major Top Rank sponsor. And Golden Boy fights are on Showtime and Top Rank fights are on HBO.

Arum said that when he and duBoef first spoke to MGM officials about the Pacquiao-Bradley fight, he proposed doing it at Mandalay Bay. Mandalay Bay is an MGM Resorts property that is across the street from the MGM Grand.

"They wanted it at the MGM because they have the mansion there [which houses high-rolling customers] and all of the Asian high-rollers will be there," Arum said. "We talked about the Mayweather photo on the outside and they said it was contractual and had to stay there. But Hornbuckle said they'd make up for it and have our stuff all over the building."

But there is significantly more Mayweather-Maidana advertising in the build than there is Pacquiao-Bradley advertising. When Arum introduced Sturm at the news conference on Wednesday in the MGM's Hollywood Theater, he couldn't resist taking a shot.

"And now, it's a pleasure to introduce the president of hanging posters and decorations for the wrong fight," Arum said from the podium. "Please welcome Richard Sturm."

Sturm smirked, but read his script welcoming the media and fighters and made no reference to Arum's comments.

Arum said he isn't concerned that he'll be blackballed from doing fights at the MGM. He said the MGM ought to be concerned that he'll bring major fights back to The Venetian Macau. He promoted Pacquiao's last fight there, a win over Brandon Rios, on Nov. 23.

Arum has a relationship with The Venetian and has been doing a series of smaller shows featuring Asian stars. But he plans for either Pacquiao or Bradley to fight again in November against the winner of the May 17 bout between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado, and said he might take it to China.

"Manny Pacquiao fights do five times the business in the casino that the other guy's [Mayweather] fights do, and they should be worried that I'm going to take a huge fight to The Venetian," Arum said. "This is about respect. Sturm is a moron and he doesn't get that. Money is money and it's just one thing, but when you disrespect someone, they'll never forget.

"I'm never going to forget this. I'm dealing with a guy who is totally clueless. I said it before, but he's a moron. He doesn't have a [expletive] clue what the [expletive] he's doing. He's a business person and he can't get out of his own way, the [expletive]."

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