Can Bam Bam’s Retirement Reduce His Contractual Relationships to Pebbles?

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A Quick Look at the Potential Contractual Implications of the Retirement of Welterweight Contender Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios Following His TKO Loss to Timothy Bradley

At his peak, Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios was one of the most tough, durable, and exciting contenders in all of professional boxing. His bouts consistently generated action, and his mouth consistently generated publicity for them. Rios was rewarded for his exciting career when he was given a shot at future Hall-of-Famer Manny Pacquiao on November 24, 2013. Rios showed his usual sturdiness and grit in losing a 12 round decision to Pacquiao. Rios’ loss against Pacquiao was attributed to the dominance Pacquiao exhibited over most of his opponents throughout his highly decorated career. Fast forward almost two years, however, and it appears that Rios has now reached the end of the line. On November 7, 2015, Rios looked out of shape and out of ideas in advance of an HBO-televised ninth round TKO loss to WBO welterweight champion Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley. Rios subsequently announced his retirement during an in-ring post-fight interview.

Whether or not the Bradley fight is, in fact, Rios’ last professional bout, his announcement provides an excellent opportunity to visit the question of what the contractual implications might be when a professional athlete retires while still having valid management and promotional agreements. Indeed, Rios is managed by the influential Cameron Dunkin and promoted by Top Rank, one of the sport’s elite promoters. A quick look follows.

It is not unusual to see in a boxer’s management or promotional agreement a tolling provision which provides that, in the event that the boxer temporarily retires, a manager or promoter may, at their discretion, toll the agreement for the entire period of the boxer’s temporary retirement and then continue to run the time on the agreement if and when the boxer later resumes his professional boxing career until the end of the term, or any extension thereof. What does such a provision mean for a professional boxer, or any other athlete, if they retire? It means that if the retirement is temporary, and motivated, in whole or in part, by any issues the boxer is having with their manager or promoter, they cannot simply return to boxing a year or two later with a whole new team behind them and not expect their prior handlers to come knocking.

Not surprisingly, such tolling provisions have led to a host of contractual disputes between boxers and their managers or promoters over the course of time. Take, for example, the lawsuit pending between Don King Productions and former world champion Ricardo Mayorga in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. King’s lawsuit, which was initially filed in an effort to block an August 29, 2015 bout between Mayorga and future Hall-of-Famer “Sugar” Shane Mosley, is based, in part on King’s assertion that a promotional agreement between himself and Mayorga was tolled after Mayorga announced his retirement following a loss in 2011. Mayorga did not box for three years before returning for two quick wins in 2014 (in bouts which were not promoted by King) and the bout with Mosley. While the merits of the lawsuit have been questioned since its filing, it would not be a surprise if King’s assertion hangs on a provision in the agreement purporting to toll its term in the event of Mayorga’s retirement.

So what happens if Rios actually retires and stays retired following his loss to Bradley? In that event, Dunkin and Top Rank may have tolling provisions in their respective agreements that will never be utilized. But if Rios ultimately un-retires, and tries to do so with a whole new team, he should probably make 100 percent certain that he has written releases from Dunkin and/or Top Rank first. Otherwise, one of the final bouts of his career may involve legal counsel, rather than highlight reel exchanges. Just ask Mayorga.

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