Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions announced Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit against rival Al Haymon and his new Premier Boxing Champions series, alleging it violates the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act that prohibits managers functioning as promoters.
The lawsuit, seeking $300 million, was filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
In a prepared statement emailed to reporters, Golden Boy contends, “Since the moment Al Haymon launched [PBC earlier this year], he has repeatedly and brazenly broken the letter and spirit of [the Ali Act] that is meant to protect fighters from exploitation.
“Haymon has entered into agreements to restrain trade in a substantial portion of the market for promotion of championship-caliber boxers,” the lawsuit contends.
De La Hoya originally filed a lawsuit against his company’s former chief executive Richard Schaefer for making deals with boxing manager Haymon that allowed several talented fighters to have limited obligation to Golden Boy.
As part of a settlement that followed, Schaefer was barred from fight promotion until August and boxers such as super-bantamweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz, welterweight champion Keith Thurman, unbeaten welterweight Danny Garcia and heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder went to Haymon while De La Hoya retained a select few, including light-middleweight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
"During my 25 years in boxing, I have watched far too many fighters be chewed up, spit out and left with nothing to sit idly by while Mr. Haymon flaunts a federal law meant to protect those who put everything on the line to entertain fans of our sport," De La Hoya said in his company’s statement. "The Ali Act was passed to help fighters avoid the fate that bedeviled so many of our predecessors; and I will do everything in my power to ensure this crucial piece of legislation is upheld and followed.”
Yet, several involved with PBC claim De La Hoya has no case.
Haymon’s PBC does strike deals with promoters, like it did with Southland-based Goossen Promotions for an April fight in Carson headlined by light-heavyweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Brooklyn-based Lou DiBella, who has already promoted one bout and has two more coming.
The PBC has fight deals with NBC/NBC Sports Network, CBS/Showtime, ABC/ESPN and Spike TV, including a coming card on Spike TV headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s next possible opponent, Amir Khan, on May 23.
While Haymon has altered the boxing landscape by limiting what promoters earn for given fights, he hasn’t broken Ali Act principles, said DiBella, a former HBO executive who said he helped write the Ali Act.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to promote shows, to expand the breadth of our audience,” DiBella told The Times last week after Sports Illustrated first reported the lawsuit was coming.
“What is being done is fine. The Ali Act is supposed to be protecting fighters. The idea is that managers aren’t supposed to be co-opted by promoters. I’m humored by the whole thing. Do you believe any of these fighters promoted by the PBC aren’t getting the best money in the industry? They’re not complaining.”
Haymon, who also manages Mayweather, does not speak to reporters.
The Assn. of Boxing Commissions asked U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch to probe Haymon’s arrangement last week, but DiBella claims the ABC has never enforced the Ali Act.
In the Golden Boy statement, it was said Haymon’s violations were numerous.
“Among the most glaring … is that he routinely serves as both manager of his fighters and promoter of their fights, even though such a dual role is explicitly prohibited by the Ali Act in order to ‘protect boxers, the boxing industry, and the public from abusive, exploitive, and anticompetitive behavior.’”
The lawsuit reads that, "By ignoring the 'firewall' established by the Ali Act, the Haymon defendants are essentially sitting on both sides of the bargaining table. While purporting to act in their clients' best interests, the Haymon defendants have obtained direct and indirect financial interests in promoting their boxers -- thereby creating the very conflict of interest the Ali Act sought to remedy.”
In the Golden Boy statement, it notes, “Haymon calls himself a manager or an advisor, yet Haymon and his myriad of companies are well known to arrange and contract for the bouts, the arenas, the sponsors and the television time -- all duties of a boxing promoter.
“Even Haymon-managed fighters themselves repeatedly refer to Haymon as their 'promoter,' though he is well-known to manage more than 100 fighters.
"Haymon is, not only pushing out other legitimate promoters in favor of ineffective puppets that he controls, but locking out top fighters who dare to not join his stable of boxers.”
After his Saturday victory, Mayweather announced he would relinquish all five of his world-title belts – two in the 154-pound division and three at weltwerweight.
That brought insiders to speculate Haymon is aiming to eliminate dealing with sanctioning bodies and perhaps create his own belts, like the Ultimate Fighting Championship does in mixed martial arts.
Others predict when Schaefer returns to the sport, he will promote bouts involving Haymon fighters. Schaefer declined to discuss that idea when contacted by The Times last month.
“Nothing says that a manager can’t utilize the services of a promoter,” DiBella said.