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Jury finds Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has to pay former promoter $8.5 million

Canelo Alvarez lands a left hand on Amir Khan during their middleweight title fight in Las Vegas on May 7.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

A Miami jury Monday returned a verdict requiring Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to pay $8.5 million to a former promoter he was aligned with before joining Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions in 2009.

A spokesman for Golden Boy said afterward that Alvarez will immediately appeal the verdict, which supported the contention by Miami-based Felix “Tuto” Zabala Jr. that his All-Star Boxing Inc. deal enhanced the career of the popular former two-division champion from Mexico.

“I’m happy, because I did this not for money, but for the dignity of my business,” Zabala told the Los Angeles Times, saying he was celebrating while sipping from a glass of pricey Macallan 25 whiskey. “You have to respect contracts.”

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Alvarez fought nine times under the All-Star banner and Zabala contended the boxer had a signed deal that had him under contract for three more years when he left for Golden Boy. The lawsuit was filed in 2011, and Golden Boy rejected a $5-million settlement offer as Zabala proceeded to seek multiple millions of dollars in punitive damages.

“We would not be extorted,” a Golden Boy official wrote in an official statement emailed to reporters late Monday, in which it was said the company was “extremely pleased … the jury [found] that no contract ever existed between Canelo and All-Star Boxing.”

Golden Boy spokesman Stefan Friedman said Monday that Golden Boy was “exonerated from paying anything.”

Friedman, in an interview with The Times, said De La Hoya and Alvarez are “mystified” by the jury awarding the $8.5 million to All-Star for enriching Alvarez’s career, given the panel’s connected finding that there was no breach of contract by Alvarez toward Zabala. Alvarez all along contended whatever he signed was under duress.

“This is the very reason we’re going to appeal this verdict,” Friedman said. “And just like we didn’t settle before, there’ll be no settlement on this, either.

Yet, Zabala attorney Alejandro Brito responded, “We’re very confident that” the jury verdict will be affirmed through appeal. “The decision is a sound, well-reasoned one, and it’s going to be extremely difficult for Canelo Alvarez to mount an appeal to overturn it. Unjust enrichment entitled us to this award – All-Star launched him into the career he has now.”

Zabala’s current stable of fighters has about 25 in it, far smaller than Golden Boy’s.

In the Golden Boy statement, it said, in part, “It is absurd to think that All-Star Boxing provided anywhere near that amount of value that the jury awarded under a separate claim. We will appeal this part of the decision, and are confident we will win, just as we did on the contract dispute.”

Golden Boy certainly landed the popular, red-headed Alvarez as his career was on a steep ascent that included his participation in the third-richest bout of all time, his 2013 loss by decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Within the past year, in pay-per-view bouts, he’s defeated former four-division champion Miguel Cotto by unanimous decision in November, and Amir Khan by knockout on May 7. His World Boxing Council middleweight belt was ultimately surrendered and awarded to unbeaten Gennady Golovkin.

Friedman said the verdict does not affect Alvarez’s fighting future, and that he’s free to pursue his next fight with Golden Boy as his promoter.

“Canelo is our guy, we’re going where Canelo goes,” Friedman said.

One of the unanswered questions is who will pay the $8.5 million if it sticks. Alvarez may have added an indemnification clause to his contract renewal with Golden Boy last year, obligating De La Hoya to cover expenses in legal matters such as the Zabala case.

‘We look forward to putting this episode behind us and working with Canelo to continue his meteoric rise through the boxing ranks,” read the Golden Boy statement.

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire


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