Todd duBoef, president of boxing promotions company Top Rank, talks about the changes that are currently defining the boxing industry.
Todd duBoef, a Las Vegas native, is president of Top Rank. Looking beyond the arena, the 47-year-old has led Top Rank to become one of the most important sports entities in the world as promoter of major boxing matches. Perhaps his magnum opus is the May 2 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao long-anticipated welterweight title bout that, at a minimum of $89.95 for pay-per-view, could generate $200 million in earnings for the fighters alone.
Here, we chat with duBoef about the changes that are currently defining the boxing industry.
You have almost-revolutionary ideas about how boxing survives and how to promote it—pay-per-view, streaming, social media.
Todd duBoef: Boxing’s a special product. In the States we’re used to the NFL or the NBA. and their regulated seasons. But look at a Wladimir Klitschko [a heavyweight champion]. He’s big in Germany and Russia. We have huge global stars who don’t necessarily relate to the United States. We’re building a global product that recognizes other countries, just as soccer has. We have to recognize the sport along international lines, not just think of what it means here.
How have you approached new media and the new fan as a game-changer?
TD: Look, TV used to want things arranged just for the screen. But now, with pay-per-view, we’ll stream the fights for free on the undercard. And then there’s the arena itself. Who doesn’t like a nightclub? It hit me that we had to create a nightclub atmosphere—music and lights. We light up not only the 24-by-24-foot-ring, we light up the entire arena. I kind of like the energy.
Where might we see boxing next—only pay-per-view? Something else?
TD: There’s a lot of boxing on different platforms: NBC, ESPN, in addition to pay-per-view and streaming. Will it continue? I don’t know. None of us know. Yet, I still see it as being at the highest level of fights. There’s an enormous amount of money generated for athletes. Look at social media. We didn’t have that in the days of Leonard-Hagler. Now everyone around the world is connecting, talking up boxing.
You’re 47 years old. You have encompassed both the old and the new and the future.
TD: I had the advantage of serving four years under Bob Arum, just learning. I wasn’t forced to make decisions based purely on money. So, I learned. I saw arenas with 20,000 people and they weren’t being catered to. We changed that. And I also saw boxing take off in other countries—4 million watching Zou Shiming in China. Mexico’s top-rated telecast is a weekly boxing show. We’re educating the sports public by putting on a video before a fight. It shows who the fighter is and some of his background. I’ve been lucky. I got an advanced degree in boxing. I love it.