By Paul Magno | January 13, 2022

On Wednesday, WBO welterweight champ and 3-division world titlist Terence Crawford filed a lawsuit against now-former promoter Bob Arum/Top Rank Promotions, alleging racial bias and breach of contract. The 34-year-old Omaha, Nebraska native is seeking upwards of $10 million in total damages. 

The damages include “no less than $4.5 million” for a bout Crawford alleges Top Rank owed him in 2019 and a $900,000 payment in 2019 per a reported agreement to deliver a serious Errol Spence fight offer by year’s end. 

News of the lawsuit was first reported by the New York Post and it quotes directly from the legal document filed by Crawford’s attorney:

“Arum clearly allows his revolting racial bias to impact the fighters he is obliged to promote.

“Because this is boxing, a sport with a checkered history, and because Arum is now dismissed as just a grumpy old white man, Arum continues to make racist and bigoted statements and purposefully damage the reputations of Black boxers without any consequences. 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.

“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.

“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 90-year-old Arum was quick to issue an official statement to media:

“Bud Crawford’s lawsuit against Top Rank is frivolous. His vile accusations of racism are reckless and indefensible. He knows it, and his lawyer knows it. I have spent my entire career 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 had been signed with Top Rank for a decade in total, initially bound by a seven-year deal and then signing a three-year extension in 2018. Ties between the two were officially severed this past November. This latter fact makes Crawford’s case unlike most other lawsuits filed against Arum and his promotional firm. 

"It is unfortunate that Top Rank did not treat Terence properly and in fact spoke out regularly against him.” Crawford’s attorney, Bryan Freedman told ESPN. “Unlike other boxers bound to Top Rank contracts, Terence can assert his claims in court without Top Rank forcing him to sit out. Make no mistake, that is a game-changer."

The increasingly bitter, resentful relationship between Crawford and Arum went public in late 2020, when Arum gave a mega-quoted interview to The Athletic about the possibility of re-signing Crawford when his contract expired in 2021.

"That’s not the right question,” Arum said. “The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights. A beautiful home... The question is, ‘Does it [Crawford's work] pay the bills?’"

In that same interview, Arum blames Crawford’s lack of crossover, pay-per-view appeal to the fighter’s own unwillingness to self-promote like other stars, wondering aloud “who the fuck needs him” if he doesn’t work to sell his own fights.

Crawford’s lawsuit draws ties from these kinds of disparaging public remarks to a systematic racial bias running throughout Arum’s business practices. The lawsuit mentions several instances of Arum’s racial insensitivity or flat-out prejudice, including comments made about African American boxing personalities such as Floyd Mayweather, Errol Spence, and manager/adviser Al Haymon. 

Arum, who claims to have lost close to $20 million on Crawford, shows signs that he plans on fighting back aggressively and taking his case directly to the public. When contacted by the NY Post for a comment on the lawsuit, he was quick to release some otherwise proprietary information to back up his claim that Crawford just couldn’t draw public interest. 

“There’s a limit we can do, we have a huge social media team, we did all we could on Crawford’s fight with Porter but all we did on pay-per-view was 135,000 homes and that is not because of any racism on our part.

“His [Crawford’s] previous fights got less than 100,000, he simply doesn’t sell. With Porter we were hoping for at least 250,000 or even 400,000 views but people weren’t interested in buying it…We lost a barrel of money.”

The fighter’s lawsuit contends, however, that Crawford couldn’t draw public interest because Arum failed in his duties as a promoter, something that, in great part, was due to his disregard for Black fighters and inability/unwillingness to market to the Black community. 

“Top Rank fails to specifically address the pointed allegations,” Freedman said in a follow-up to the NY Post, commenting on Arum’s statement. “It is no surprise that instead of taking responsibility for its actions, that Top Rank would try and turn this around and place the blame on Terence. 

“It had no problem telling ESPN how great Terence was in order for Top Rank to get its contract with ESPN worth tens of millions of dollars, yet one more time when it comes to promoting its own fighter, it is once again that fighter’s fault. 

“Unfortunately in the past, Black boxers bound under Top Rank contracts could not afford to stand up for themselves. Terence can and will. Instead of placing the blame on Terence, Top Rank should make amends for its past actions. Failure to do so will be devastating.”

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