Some folks care only for the business inside the ring, but the fights outside the ring are also brutal, in a different way, and can mightily impact what you do or don't see on your screen. So, they are “newsworthy” and deserve to be discussed.
Case in point: Bob Arum, the pound for pound king of the promotional business, a major player and then some in this space since 1966, has no love for the methods employed by reclusive deal-maker Al Haymon .
That's an understatement; Arum believes Haymon plays fast and loose and dirty. And he wanted to prove that point in court…Arum's stance, in which he accused Haymon of “rigging” the industry, went before a California judge last week, and the judge dismissed an antitrust allegation, while also stating that Haymon's Kansas-based Wall St. financial backers (Waddell & Reed) cannot be targeted in this suit.
The Arum combo says that Haymon is illegally trying to create a monopoly situation, which is supposed to be verboten in our nation, where a “free market” is supposed to reign. In recent history, as more mega corporations amass more goodies, this nation hasn't cracked down on monopolistic practices, though, arguably, that trend might be reversing, as our citizenry is now better comprehending the anti-for-the-masses practices our elected officials have been propagating the last four decades.
In this filed suit, it is alleged that Haymon uses tactics that are beyond unbecoming; but unless a fighter comes forward and testifies that he was explicitly prevented from signing with someone other than Haymon, for example, I don't see how a judge latches on to some of the Arum-team allegations. I did think to myself, as this case was publicized, that it would seemingly be hard to prove that Haymon is in an illegal manner restricting or denying Top Rank's ability to compete and thrive, being that TR had the B side, Manny Pacquiao, in that May 2 “Super Fight” which exceeded expectations in grossing obscene piles of loot for a select few. But I'm a boxing writer…so I asked a NYC-based attorney friend to mull this judgement on a suit which came together in June and offer some thoughts on what it means.
“Bottom line, very thorough and well-reasoned decision, but more importantly, based soundly on the law,” my attorney friend told me. “Top Rank needs to tighten up its factual allegations beyond mere conclusions. The procedural rule the defendants relied on permits dismissal if there is no legal theory or the complaint lacks sufficient facts to support the legally cognizable theories alleged. Both of those basis' were found lacking here. That said, the courts allow liberal pleadings and are permitting TR to serve an Amended Complaint with more factual meat on its bones.”
He continued: “The Court is looking for facts that TR has been injured by Haymon's conduct. The decision specifically states, that TR “has not identified a single bout that it has attempted to promote but was precluded from promoting by the Haymon Defendants, a single venue from which it has been blocked, or a single network that has refused to broadcast a fight promoted by Top Rank.”
Right; and that seems like iffy territory there, anyway. I mean, Showtime can “refuse to broadcast” an Arum-promoted bout…but they have free will in choosing who to do business with. So, there has to be an element of unfairness, lack of fair play, in that refusal…and that has to be found and presented to the court.
“Lawyer X” continued: “Also, the court indicated the lawsuit lacked facts sufficient to show an Anti-Trust violation existed. Specifically, the decision states, “Top Rank only alleges that the Haymon Defendants, on one occasion, withheld their consent and refused to allow Roc Nation to promote a bout involving one of the Haymon Defendants’ boxers. With respect to venue blocking, Top Rank only alleges that the Haymon Defendants blocked Golden Boy and Banner Promotions from booking a venue for a single fight.”
Looks to me like the judge said, OK, they were blocked from booking a card at venues. But Haymon is allowed to out-bid another party for a site to put on a fight. Right? (Now, if bids were put in to block, and then no cards were placed in those venues, then I don't condone that practice. Let's fight each other with honorable methods, that's my plea.)
“X” continued: “The Court found that there were insufficient facts to sue the Haymon financial backers. The court advised that it needs to see what actionable conduct each the specific defendant engaged in as opposed to lumping all 9 (I believe its 9) defendants together as each collectively and individually committing the same violative acts as the others. Lastly, the Court held that there was no legal claim for aiding and abetting or conspiring by companies, individuals who were nothing more than investors.”
So, what does X think is next step for Top Rank? “If TR doesn’t come back with detailed facts and specifics… which are hard to come by whenever Haymon is involved, those portions already stricken may be DOA the second time around. It is never good to have your lawsuit gutted before the defendant even puts in an answer to it!”
There ya go…a look at one of the outside the ring battles featuring two giants of industry, protecting territory, and seeking to expand reach. This one will be a 15 rounder…