UPDATE: Late afternoon on Wednesday, a statement from Team Haymon was released, in response to the Top Rank suit. Here it is:
Statement from Kramer Levin Naftalis and Frankel:
Re: Top Rank, Inc. v. Alan Haymon et al
On behalf of our clients Alan Haymon, Haymon Boxing LLC, Haymon Sports, LLC and Haymon Holdings LLC
The lawsuit filed today by Bob Arum and Top Rank is entirely without merit and is a cynical attempt by boxing’s old guard to use the courts to undermine the accessibility, credibility and exposure of boxing that the sport so desperately needs. The Premier Boxing Champions series makes boxing free again, by bringing championship boxing to free TV, with a fighter-first promise and a commitment to the fans to restore boxing to the luster of its heyday. The continued success of this effort will far outlast this baseless lawsuit.
Another shoe has dropped in the promotional wars of 2015; promoter Bob Arum has lodged a lawsuit against disruptor in chief Al Haymon, asserting that Haymon is a shadowy figure who is rigging the game to suit his nefarious needs.
This document and flurry aimed at the ex music biz maven, who has turned the sport on its head by snapping up marquee platforms, where he showcases the more than 200 fighters signed to him under an advisory capacity, comes on the heels of a similar one advanced by Oscar De La Hoya.
Arum is seeking $100 million plus in damages, and the suit, overseen by attorney Daniel Petrocelli in California, is stationed in the US District Court of Los Angeles.
The aim seems to be to turn off the money spigot which has been made available to Haymon from investment firm Waddell and Reed. Fighters have been enjoying stellar paydays this year as a result of the war chest Haymon enjoys, so we have not heard, really, a peep of protest from them, as their purses have been bumped north, but we can expect this suit to kick up dust, and shed light on practices by the sports top-most brokers of power in the coming months and maybe years.
Haymon is portrayed as a “shadowy” figure who is “rigging” the industry, and is engaged in practices of “payola,” which is essentially paying off people to get preferential treatment, and was a term popularized in the radio business in the 50s and 60s.
The suit puts forth that there is a groundswell of opposition to Haymon, including the Association of Boxing Commissions, who in April sent a request to the US AG to investigate Haymon’s practices. Also backing this play by Top Rank is De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins, who lodged their own suit, which will have Haymon arguably playing a ton of defense, and keeping his lawyers well paid…also, the call by the WBO president to have Haymon investigated is referenced. Message: there is a legion of anti Haymon folks who agree with the contentions in the suit.
The suit seeks to “rebrand” Haymon’s “time buy” model as “neo payola,” as illegally paying for prominent placement. More punches–Haymon has suppressed competition, illegally, by booking venues, engaging in “venue squatting,” so that other promoters have to move their events elsewhere. Examples for that argument include citing the April Ruslan Provodnikov-Lucas Matthysse bout, which ended up at the lower-tier venue Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY, instead of a higher-profile staging platform.
Other points of interest: Haymon allegedly profiting from illegal ticket scalping, and being instrumental in blocking certain fighters from getting sparring from boxers who are “bought off” by Haymon.
Boiled down, the suit comes down the assertion that Haymon cannot act as both manager and promoter, because the Muhammad Ali Act forbids him from doing so. Also, that he is engaged in monopolistic practices by trying to corner venues, and block other promoters from booking them. Others are folded into the claim; the suit says that promoters like Lou DiBella, Leon Margules and Goossen Promotions are basically acting as covers for Haymon, are “sham” actors, not the “real” promoter who sets up all the matches of import.
In talking to some Haymon and Haymon-tied folks on background, I get the sense the reaction to this latest flurry ranges from ire, and counter-claims that Arum is in fact a bad actor himself, to resignation, in a “haters gonna hate” sphere, seeing it as a cost of doing business as the new monster on the block. No one is privately, to me, evincing any worry that the suits have merit, though I have to imagine, at least, that there has to be a private mindset of at the least mild concern that maybe the court takes the Top Rank side in this clash.
De La Hoya put out a statment a little after 3 PM Eastern time on Wednesday:
“I applaud Bob Arum and Top Rank Boxing for stepping up on behalf of fighters not only in their own stable, but all across the sport. Those like Bob and myself who have spent the bulk of their lives around boxing understand that the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act is a crucial piece of legislation that serves to protect boxers and enhance the sport. Golden Boy Promotions will continue to push forward with our own lawsuit to ensure our wonderful sport continues to grow in a competitive, just manner.”
Background on GBP Lawsuit:
On May 6, 2015, Golden Boy Promotions filed a $300 million lawsuit against Al Haymon and his related companies alleging repeated violation of antitrust laws and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. The case was filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles.
In the court of public/Twitter opinion, reaction is mixed: some see Haymon as a bad actor, a master manipulator who has turned the industry on its ear and is bad for the sweet science; others are pleased with all the free content now available on marquee platforms.
There is now no shortage of Internet attorneys, I note, labeling the suit one way or another, as “devastating” or the like, when in fact, opinion among ACTUAL logicians with degrees in that realm are mixed. For instance, I think the counter-claim can be made that the Haymon play leaving “no room for …other promoters” can be debated, as high profile shows put together by Golden Boy, Top Rank and Main Events have just occured or are about to. Bottom line, my two cents: let us let the lawyers do the lawyering, and do a better job at staying in our lane.
The fighters, by and large, are not squawking, as their purses have headed northward when in the Haymon fold, and the market all-told seems to reflect the new reality, arguably, as other promoters need to keep talent happy, lest they seek to jump to the Haymon ship.
One fighter mentioned in the 50 page suit is Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a former Top Rank boxer; he did jump ship and was rewarded with a handsome payday in his last outing. Indeed, he posted a $1.75 million dollar check pic on social media, and that pic is noted in the suit…as evidence of Haymon’s odiousness, because the promoter typically pays the fighter, his “advisor” does not.
Bottom line–suit says Haymon wears too many hats: promoter, manager/advisor, popcorn seller. No bueno, it is alleged…that muddies his aims and loyalties and disqualifies him from doing business in a free and righteous open market. He is trying to gain a monolopoly, with the end result being a one-man game, the attorneys and Top Rank put forth, with only him controlling all the marbles…and then, the fans will have to pay the piper (“supracompetitive pricing”) and he will charge egregiously with all the power and players in his lap. For this reason, Top Rank asks that Haymon and companies be barred from doing this business, and seeks damages in excess of $100 million, “trebled.”
Is Haymon in quicksand now? Or is this much ado about near nothing?