You can count the number of heavyweights Bob Arum has promoted on one hand. And even that would be overstating it. Basically all one would need is two boxing gloves.
One for Muhammad Ali.
One for George Foreman, after Big George shaved his head, became cuddly and started hawking lean, mean grilling machines.
Now Arum is back in the heavyweight business with Tyson Fury, a British fighter possessing a large stature and an ever larger personality. He thinks Fury can win back the title. Or, more importantly, help him earn more money.
A few Las Vegas reporters and a guy wearing yellow-tinted glasses and a velour jacket who calls himself The Schmo were invited to Top Rank headquarters to chat with Fury, who fights Tom Schwarz on June 15 at the MGM Grand.
Tom Schwarz sounds like a guy who might sell Buicks or prepare tax returns. But this being late May instead of April 15, his name came up about as often as Peter McNeeley’s before he fought Mike Tyson (for whom Fury is named). This would have been around the same time Arum was serving hamburgers to George Foreman on a big silver platter.
“We used to have so many American heavyweights and now with just a few exceptions, they’re all in the NFL and the NBA,” Arum said after being interrupted at lunch. “We rely now on heavyweights coming from parts of the world that used to be a small percentage of the heavyweights. Now they’re the major percentage.”
Getting to know him
Fury was downstairs, doing interviews with TV types. In a few minutes, the rest of us would get a glimpse into the engaging persona Arum thinks he can promote to a U.S. audience with the heavyweights commanding attention again.
“You have three heavyweights at the top of the litter, reminiscent of Ali, Frazier, Foreman,” he said of a present-day triumvirate consisting of champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder and Fury, who briefly held the linear title after upsetting Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 before going into a tailspin brought on by depression and recreational drugs.
“This is sort of getting to be the same thing.”
Emphasis on sort of.
“To really be successful in the heavyweight division, you have to be a star in the United States,” Arum said of building up Fury. “That’s where the revenue is, essentially. So you have to get him known and followed by people in boxing. Secondly, you have to get him known by sports people — that’s a little harder. And third, you’ve got to get him known by as much as the general public as you can.”
Fury is a descendant of the Irish Travelers, a band of wanderers often compared to gypsies.
After he battled Wilder to a draw in a fight many thought he won, Fury serenaded reporters by singing “American Pie.”
For a behemoth that stands 6 feet, 9 inches, and weighs 19 stone (256 pounds) he can bob and weave.
There’s much to like about this man, a compelling story to be told — and embellished, if need be. Arum will have the gregarious Fury telling it to Las Vegan Jimmy Kimmel on late night TV shortly. If the big man can add to the narrative with a few more knockouts — not exactly his forte — Arum just might have another George Foreman on his hands.
On finding America
“British fight fans are very reserved,” said the Manchester-born Fury after reporters were ushered downstairs to meet him. “For a confident, brash talker like me self, I have to come to America to be appreciated.”
Asked how he was finding America, he did not mention Greenland and turning left, as a glib John Lennon famously replied after he and the other Beatles touched down on American soil before a slightly larger welcoming committee.
But Fury said he’s so happy to be here he might break into another song before he fights Tom Schwarz. It won’t be “American Pie,” he said, though he’s enjoying a king-sized slice with a few beers to wash it down.
“This is Vegas … so maybe Elvis or Tom Jones — he’s great,” said Fury, who at 30 and having given his personal demons a standing eight count, seems to be feeling good about himself.
With the heavyweight division enjoying a renaissance and Bob Arum flexing promoting muscle in his corner, Tyson Fury wants to make America his showroom.
He should be careful not to injure his hand on Tom Schwarz’s pocket protector.