What appeared to be an amicable parting between WBO welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford and Top Rank chairman Bob Arum following Crawford’s 10th-round knockout victory over Shawn Porter on Nov. 20 that signaled the end of his long-term promotional agreement with the company apparently was anything but.
Crawford, who is Black, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Clark County District Court in Nevada against Arum, who is white, accusing him of racial bias in promoting him. Crawford is suing Arum for breach of contract, seeking at least $5.4 million he claims Top Rank owes him, punitive damages, interest on the money he alleges he is owed, and attorneys fees.
“Arum continues to make racist and bigoted statements and purposefully damage the reputations of Black boxers without any consequences,” Crawford attorneys Bryan J. Freedman, Brian E. Turnauer, and Hector J. Carbajal II wrote in the 23-page lawsuit, wrote in the 23-page lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by World Boxing News. “This is generally because the affected boxers, who are in long-term contracts with Top Rank, fear that if they speak up, they will be placed on the sideline and not given the opportunity to fight during the life of their deal, which could be 5 to 7 years.”
The suit further accuses Top Rank president Todd duBoef, Arum’s step-son, of being “fully aware of Arum’s racist statements and disparate treatment of Black boxers, keeps his mouth shut waiting to take the helm of Top Rank after Arum dies or retires. Since Top Rank and (duBoef) will not police themselves, do the right thing and move forward as a responsible business in 2022, Crawford, who backs down to no one, will make them do so. By this lawsuit, Crawford shines a spotlight on the systemic racism that runs through Top Rank, Top Rank’s complete inability to properly promote Black fighters, and Top Rank, Arum and (duBoef’s) disparate treatment of Black fighters, including Crawford.”
The suit claims that Arum “has made millions of dollars exploiting individuals of color, including Crawford. It is painfully clear that Top Rank, and especially Arum, judges people based on their race. Arum’s sordid history with athletes of color, especially Black fighters, and his bias favoring white and Latino fighters is well-documented and known throughout the boxing world. Arum makes no secret of his deep-seated bias against Black fighters.”
Arum, 90, of Las Vegas , who has often championed the causes of minorities during his 56-year promotional career, called the suit “frivolous.”
“Bud Crawford’s lawsuit against Top Rank is frivolous,” Arum said in a statement given to World Boxing News. “His vile accusations of racism are reckless and indefensible. He knows it, and his lawyer knows it. I have spent my entire working life as a champion of Black boxers, Latino boxers, and other boxers of color. I have no doubt the court will see Crawford’s case for the malicious extortion attempt that it is.”
Crawford said in the lawsuit that once Arum thought that he would not re-sign with him at the conclusion of the recently expired deal he launched a “smear campaign” against him by referring to him as “an unexciting, unprofitable fighter who could not draw viewers. In truth, Top Rank, a company with zero Black executives, and only two or three Black employees, refuses to admit that it simply does not care about, support, or know how to promote Black fighters.”
The suit alleges breach of contract, in particular as it relates Crawford’s welterweight title defense against Egidijus Kavaliauskas in December 2019.
“Top Rank has repeatedly breached its contracts with Crawford, and in fact defrauded him into entering agreements in the first place,” the suit said. “Even while Top Rank openly criticized Crawford, it pushed him into agreeing to fight Egidijus Kavaliauskas – not because that was best for Crawford’s career, but because Top Rank needed to fulfill its obligations to (broadcast partner) ESPN. To induce Crawford to agree to the Kavaliauskas bout, Top Rank fraudulently promised to arrange for Crawford to fight Errol Spence Jr. despite knowing that Top Rank could never deliver the promised match.
“Top Rank also failed to deliver a promised second bout under the parties’ promotional rights agreement. Top Rank apparently had no qualms about lying to a Black fighter or failing to respect its contractual obligations to him, though it would never treat one of its white fighters with such blatant disrespect.
“Once Top Rank fraudulently induced Crawford to sign their agreements, Top Rank — through Arum, its CEO — launched a calculated campaign to defame Crawford, preventing him from receiving the benefit of his bargain. Meanwhile, Top Rank’s president (duBoef) just sits back with a smile and watches from the sidelines as he counts the days until he can finally become ‘the man’ and the power behind Top Rank.
“Crawford now calls upon Top Rank to account for the harms it has inflicted on him, and will seek full redress of his damages.”
The suit, in which duBoef’s name is repeatedly misspelled, did not mention that Kavaliauskas was Crawford’s mandatory challenger and he risked being stripped of the world title if he did not face him.
The 34-year-old Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), of Omaha , Nebraska , became a multi-millionaire during his time with Top Rank. He was an unknown 13-0 prospect when he signed with Top Rank in 2011 and then signed a new deal – the one that expired in November – in 2018. During Crawford’s time with Top Rank, Arum secured him world title fights in three weight classes and built him up on major television platforms.
With Top Rank, Crawford won world titles at lightweight, the undisputed championship at junior welterweight and the belt he now holds at welterweight, and became universally recognized as one of boxing’s elite pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
Arum has been promoting fights since 1966 and has promoted numerous star Black fighters, including Muhammad Ali (for more than two dozen bouts), George Foreman, the entire middleweight championship run of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Floyd Mayweather. Arum currently promotes top Black fighters such as Shakur Stevenson and Jamel Herring as well as top heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson, 2020 U.S. Olympians Keyshawn Davis, Duke Ragan, Troy Isley and Tiger Johnson and others.
The suit also alleges that Top Rank breached its contract with Crawford by offering him only one fight between October 13, 2019 and October 12, 2020, which was the bout with Kavaliauskas, when his contract called for a minimum of two, although that suit makes no mention of the coronavirus pandemic that raged during for much of that time and dramatically impacted the boxing business and an ability to have crowds.
“Top Rank owes Crawford no less than $4,500,000 for its breach of the 2018 Agreement by failing to provide Crawford with a second fight during the second year of the 2018 Agreement,” the suit said.
The additional $900,000 comes from what Crawford claims was from a bonus provision in the contract to fight Kavaliauskas in which “Top Rank promised to pay Crawford a bonus in excess of $900,000 on or before December 31, 2020 if Spence was physically able to compete in professional boxing and Top Rank was unable to offer Crawford the opportunity to fight Spence prior to December 31, 2020.”
Freedman has clashed with Top Rank before, having represented Mikey Garcia when he sued to the company to void his promotional agreement in 2014. Garcia was idle for 2½ years during that litigation until it was settled.
The suit divulges Crawford’s earnings during the course of the recently expired promotional deal. He was paid $6 million (plus $50,000 in training expenses) for the fight with Porter; $3.5 million (plus $50,000 in training expenses) to fight Kell Brook in November 2020; $4 million (plus $50,000 in training expenses) to fight Kavaliauskas in December 2019; $4.8 million (plus $50,000 in training expenses) to face Amir Khan in April 2019; and $3.5 million (plus $45,000 in training expenses) for the first fight of the agreement against Jose Benavidez Jr.
Award-winning writer Dan Rafael is the Lead Boxing Contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on social media @DanRafael1.