Bob Arum has set his sights on the Indian market after his company Top Rank has suffered a setback in its China plans.
The legendary boxing promoter, better known for his association with the greatest names of professional boxing like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto, is banking on his two India signings and implementation of the Disney’s Star acquisition deal to capture the Indian market.
Arum’s Top Rank promotion company has an existing contract with the Disney-owned sports network ESPN. The company last month has signed Vijender Singh as the first Indian boxer on its roaster. Arum is now eyeing the popularity of the Indian pro boxing legend with a 10-0 record and Disney’s acquisition of Star network to exploit the Indian market.
The 2010 Asian Games and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vikas Krishnan is the next big name on Top Rank’s radar.
Vijender is set to start his Top Rank association with a foray into the USA. The US debut could come in February or March, and if the promoters are to be believed, Vijender could be in line to face the winner of next week’s WBA and WBC middleweight title fight between Canelo Alvarez and Rocky Fielding, a possibility discussed during the luncheon at Arum’s estate in Beverly Hills, California, national daily Indian Express has reported with an interview with Vijender.
In addition to the two Indians, Arum’s company has also signed South African Chris van Heerden and WBA regular middleweight champion Rob Brant. The 87-year-old, who started promoting fights with Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight title defence against George Chuvalo in 1966, is exploring fresh ideas to cope up with the changing scenario in professional boxing.
India, ever-the-alluring market, is on his priority list after his failure in China, when he nabbed Olympian Zou Shiming who fought in Macau seven times, and in Shanghai twice.
“China didn’t work,” Arum had reportedly told the Talk Box podcast. “You couldn’t sell tickets in China, you had government people constantly interfering, the government people kept constantly demanding free tickets to fights, and so forth. It was always problems in China, which hopefully we won’t encounter in India.”
He thus banks on Top Rank’s contract with ESPN Vijender’s strong fan base in India. “(Vijender) is one of the big, big stars in India. He has 3.7mn followers on Twitter. So this move isn’t braggadocious,” said Arum. “We hope to educate the Indian people on the sport of boxing, through these two Indian kids. It’s a very small risk, but the reward can be huge.”