Big-time prize fighting has always walked hand in hand with big money litigation.
It’s a world of feast and famine, full of tough guys and shrewd businessmen, all capable of being very heavy handed, each in their own way. The fast and the lucky rake in the big bucks while the rest are left to fight for the scraps. For more than 20 years the celebrated Don King was sued for allegedly short-changing nearly every one of his big name clients, from Joe Frazier to Mike Tyson, and even the late great Muhammad Ali. Some time ago our firm was involved in a client’s contract discussions with Don King Promotions about a scheduled heavyweight bout in Vegas. King’s approach to contract obligations was simple: ‘If you don’t like it, sue us. We’ve got more lawyers than you have.’
That’s the fight game. When big money’s on the line, there’ll be big winners and big losers. And when the final bell rings, more often than not someone ends up taking the fight into the courts.
An intriguing and, for the fight game, typically colourful, example of the winner/loser rematch is the contract dispute currently before the American courts involving minor boxing identity and sometime actor Gabriel Rueda, who has brought an $8.6 million lawsuit against CBS, Showtime, legendary three-division world champion fighter Manny Pacquiao, and Pacquiao’s trainer/coach Freddie Roach, in a breach of contract complaint filed in a Los Angeles Superior Court. Rueda claims he is owed the multi-million dollar sum for making introductions between key parties which led to the record breaking, so-called “Fight of the Century” between Pacquiao and five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015.
In court documents Rueda has asserted he was promised a finder’s fee of 2% of the $430 million payday the fight made for Showtime and HBO in pay-per-view fees. With that much money on the line it’s not surprising that the case appears to have all the finesse and sensitivity of a classic bar-room brawl. Rueda is alleging threats and extortion by several parties, claiming he was subjected to strong-arm tactics after asking to be paid what he was owed. He says at one meeting with the parties’ lawyers he was told if he didn’t accept their offer of a $50,000 settlement and sign a watertight release, he would never work in Hollywood again. Following the meeting, he says his boss, the manager of a local LA restaurant, told him he reluctantly would have to fire him if he did not accept the offer. Then, to top it all off, Reuda asserts that, in a classic observation on the world of big-time prize fights, the lawyer told him “Look, this is boxing. Nobody cares if anybody gets hurt.”
Maybe some things in the fight game never change. It just continues to deliver the big money barneys, both inside and outside the ring.