The temp in the room just dropped a few more degrees, with word that promoter Kathy Duva, of Main Events, made good on a promise to look into legal action against Adonis Stevenson, the Canadian light heavyweight whose choice to latch on to uber advisor Al Haymon has heated up the Cold War clash in the fight game to fiery new heights.
The Sweet Science learned that Main Events and Duva filed suit, in Federal Court, in NY, against Al Haymon, Showtime, Golden Boy Promotions, promoter Yvon Michel, and boxer Adonis Stevenson.Attorney Patrick English filed the suit on Tuesday, on behalf of Main Events.
Main Events, in the complaint filed by longtime Main Events counselor Patrick English, alleges that there exists a legally binding contract between Main Events and Michel to co-promote a Sergey Kovalev-Stevenson bout. The complaint maintains that Michel breached the contract, and Main Events “suffered damages as a result.”
On the phone Wednesday afternoon, Duva told me that she will pursue damages, including punitive damages. “I keep coming to the scene in the movie ‘Network,’ when the character says, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ It would be easier in some ways not to do this, but it’s harder for me not to do something when someone stomps on my rights. I was taught to stand up to bullies.”
I spoke to Showtime boss Espinoza. He offered a “no comment,” because, he said, he hadn’t seen the complaint.
Michel emailed me back when I requested a response. The Canadian deal-maker said he heard about the suit but also hadn’t seen it. “It seems Miss Duva is basing her case on the sole agreement made between us for a Stevenson/Kovalev fight but she certainly knows it was only a piece dependent and including a multi-fight deal we, Main Events and (Michel’s company) GYM, seperately, were negotiating with HBO.” Michel said the deal had several parts, but his side wasn’t able to strike a deal for the first part of it, a fight pitting Stevenson against Andrzej Fonfara, so the other elements became moot. “She also seems to have a lot of imagination and have fantasized a major conspiracy against her. I am amazed! The fact is, I have not been able to deliver my fighter, who was not satisfied with HBO’s proposal, period. At the end of the day, it is the fighter who is making the choice of getting in the ring with a specific fighter, and it is his prerogative to choose not to, no matter his reason or if someone likes it or not.” Michel said deals like this fall apart all the time, even after similarly lengthy negotiation periods. He questioned what Main Events’ damages could be, since Kovalev just won a bout on HBO and signed a multi-fight deal with HBO. “We are going to strongly contest Main Events’ claim and expose their twisted affirmations,” he said, to close.
In the complaint, Haymon, the behind-the-scenes tree shaker/jelly maker whose power has grown immensely in the sport in the last several years, is accused of “tortious interference” with the contract forming a Kovalev-Stevenson bout, along with Golden Boy, Stevenson, Showtime, and John Does 1-8 (in other words, other parties which may be found to be liable.)
The complaint also contains exhibits, in the form of letters sent to Michel, and Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza, and a counterpunch letter from an attorney representing Stevenson. That letter maintains that “no deal was ever consummated…” and wording suggesting that the Main Events case has but a minute chance of prevailing.
Duva said she talked the issue over with Attorney English, and got second and third opinions from other attorneys. All said she had a strong case, she told me.
“When we were building this company up, we sued the WBC, WBA, Top Rank, Don King…my husband (Dan Duva) founded it as a company which asks that you follow the rules, and if you don’t we will call you out on it. Our track record for wins in court is good, we don’t do this lightly.”
Duva said she’s doing it for her company, for her conscience, for fight fans, and as much as anything, Kovalev, who she says, simply wants to fight the best. “I’d rather take my chances than be gutless. I couldn’t live with myself, and say, ‘Oh everyone might get mad at me.’ They are already trampling on my rights..what have I got to lose here? As a person, do I want to live life in fear?”
You might recall, the impetus for the suit occurred right before Main Events’ top dog, light heavyweight Kovalev was going to glove up against underdog Cedric Agnew. That’s when Stevenson lobbed a grenade, by informing all that he didn’t want to go the route that had apparently been planned by his promoter, Yvon Michel, and HBO and Main Events, which was a warmup fight for each before Stevenson and Kovalev would face off in a light heavyweight title consolidation tussle in the fall. The pin on the grenade, you could say, was likely primed back in the third week of February, when Stevenson tapped Haymon to manage him. Emanuel Steward had performed that duty, but he died in October 2012.
The fury in Duva’s voice was barely contained when she met with press several days before the March 29 Kovalev-Agnew card, in AC. Duva said that on Jan. 23, she and Team Kovalev and then Michel decided on mutually agreeable terms which would net a Sergey-Adonis showdown. Michel was on board, she said, and all assumed that Adonis was in the fold. The next day, Jan. 24, Duva said, Michel and HBO matchmaker/exec Peter Nelson agreed to terms, which included fights beyond the interim one, and the biggie, for both boxers. Michel told Duva his lawyer would type up a contract, and then send it over. It never came…
Duva took aim at the reclusive Haymon four days before Kovalev smashed Agnew. “He’s the man best known for making sure the public doesn’t get to see the fights they want,” she told me. “It’s true, isn’t it? Ask Mayweather and Pacquiao.”
That day, she said she’d look into a legal remedy, as she was sure, she said, that the terms of a deal had been agreed to, and Stevenson’s pull-up was a breach of contract, in her mind.
To be completely honest, I somewhat shrugged off the legal threat, figuring that the anger would diminish, other compelling bouts would appear for Kovalev, and the lawyers would find other bones of contention. But that light heavyweight division contains names which are on the Showtime-Golden Boy side of the street, with Stevenson and Bernard Hopkins being the other lead dogs. The options for Kovalev, with Stevenson now firmly in the other guys’ camp, aren’t boundless…so perhaps Duva figured she had little to lose, beyond some extra lawyer fees, perhaps, in attempting to rescue a deal for a fight which was on the short list for boxing fans’ 2014 wish list.
“This is why we have a legal system, so someone like me, not the biggest player on the board, gets justice,” Duva said on Wednesday. “Kovalev wants the fight, the fans want it done…but it wasn’t made because of someone elses agenda.”
Yes, she’d still like the fight to occur. But barring that, she’s hoping for monetary damages, “in the millions.”
The case was filed in the Southern District of NY, and in the federal realm, which makes sense because the parties are so spread out, in Canada, and California, and wherever Haymon lives.
“This action is for the good of sport and my business,” she said, in summation. “Someone has to stand up to them, I’m tired of it.”
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