The cacophony of chaos that followed undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney’s unanimous decision last Saturday over Vasiliy Lomachenko at the MGM Grand Garden was preceded by 10 seconds of soothing silence.
Save for the rhythmic ringing of the ringside bell for a 10-count to honor the late, great Cleveland Browns running back, activist and actor Jim Brown.
“In a way, he was responsible for everything,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “He had this huge presence, not just physical but something about him. He commanded respect.”
Arum, 91, was ringside Saturday as Top Rank paid respect to Brown at yet another marquee boxing card promoted by the legendary lawyer from New York City. There have been more than 2,150 of them to date — all tangentially the byproduct of Arum’s relationship with Brown, who died May 18 at age 87 as one of the best players in NFL history — and a lifelong boxing enthusiast.
Arum met Brown nearly 60 years ago.
“The furthest thing (from me) at that particular point was boxing,” Arum said. “Jim introduced me to (Muhammad) Ali and helped found the company.
“Then it was off to the races.”
Beginnings in boxing
A graduate of New York University and Harvard Law School, Arum was a tax attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice during John F. Kennedy’s presidential administration before leaving to work at the Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim and Ballon law firm in New York.
The firm held the closed circuit rights for a bout between George Chuvalo and Ernie Terrell, who fought Nov. 1, 1965, at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto for the WBA heavyweight title.
But there was one problem.
“They weren’t doing any business,” Arum recalled. “So they asked me, ‘Do I have any ideas?’”
As a matter of fact, Arum did: A Black man should be a part of the telecast.
“It had never happened before in sports. And so by fluke, I knew this lawyer who represented Jim Brown, and he suggested Brown to me,” Arum said. “And that’s how I met him, up at the event, where he was a commentator.”
Terrell won by unanimous decision, Brown manned the call, and Arum watched from the television truck — not knowing the way his career would change.
He promptly developed a friendship with Brown, who encouraged him to promote fights full-time, and they shared a strong friendship with Ali.
Brown called Arum about a month after Terrell’s victory, arranging for him a meeting in a Manhattan hotel suite with Ali and his manager, Jabir Herbert Muhammad.
The collective formed Main Bout, a promotional company that focused mainly on Ali, who defeated Chuvalo by decision on March 29, 1966, to conclude the first card Arum ever promoted.
“All because of Jim Brown,” Arum said.
‘A pivotal person’
Arum continued to promote Ali, and Top Rank was founded in 1973. Brown’s acting career flourished in concert with Arum’s promotional career. They’d see one another from “time to time,” Arum said, as they navigated their way through their respective industries.
Arum remains as active as ever, leaving Las Vegas last week to promote Luis Alberto Lopez’s IBF featherweight title fight against Michael Conlan in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
But Arum fondly remembered his late friend beforehand.
“A pivotal person in my life,” he said, “in the sense that when I met him, he was the one that got me to go into a business where I had never ever ever seen an event.”
He’s since promoted thousands.
All because of Jim Brown.