The Combat Sport that Cannot Slip its Own Punches (Part 2 of 2)

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Yesterday we touched on the legal and regulatory controversies in the aftermath of the Manny Pacquiao Floyd Mayweather fight. Today’s post deals with a potential DOJ investigation and lawsuit against a leading manager/advisor in the boxing world.

The Al Haymon Situation

Sparsely reported during week prior to the “Fight of the Century” was that the Association of Boxing Commissions (the ABC), a non-profit organization that strives to provide a more uniform regulatory framework for boxing and mixed martial arts in North America, called upon the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Al Haymon and “various companies associated with him” for allegedly violating multiple provisions of the Ali Act (15 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq.). The most prominent among the claimed violations is that Haymon, in his somewhat nebulous role as an “advisor” to nearly 200 professional boxers, violated the Ali Act’s prohibition on individuals acting as both a promoter and a manager for a boxer. Such violations could result in up to one year imprisonment and a $20,000 fine and also entitle boxers to a private cause of action against their manager or promoter.

While there has been no pronouncement by the Department of Justice that any such inquiry will follow from the ABC’s plea, the public request should be a tremendous cause for concern for Haymon, who in the past few months has launched his “Premier Boxing Champions” series on primetime television with the assistance of a substantial amount of money from investors. More importantly for the sport, however, is that if the Department of Justice does investigate Haymon, the result may not only mean the end of professional boxing’s most prominent powerbroker, but also the end of professional boxing’s strongest run in decades at achieving mainstream appeal. Given the stakes, it is an open question why Haymon has taken this legally uncertain role in the careers of so many boxers.

If the prospect of a federal investigation is not weighing heavily on Haymon’s mind, perhaps the $300 million dollar lawsuit filed by Golden Boy Promotions this week will. Golden Boy’s lawsuit is not the first to allege violations of the Ali Act by Haymon, but it may prove to be the first to compel a court of law to rule on whether or not his way of handling professional boxers does, in fact, constitute Ali Act violations. Several prior lawsuits filed have made similar allegations against Haymon, but seemed to end up being little more than tools to extract a settlement from Haymon and his associates over lost boxers or scrapped match-ups prior to any depositions, discovery, or court rulings. Here, however, it seems Golden Boy Promotions is truly on a mission to shine a light into Haymon’s world and expose his alleged wrongdoing and its effect on professional boxing. Golden Boy’s lawsuit is also the first to make anti-trust allegations against Haymon and his business partners in the Premier Boxing Champions series, which, although seemingly premature given the series’ recentness, may nonetheless have long-ranging implications on both Haymon’s methods of doing business and the continued success of the series.

The end result of all of the drama surrounding the Mayweather-Pacquiao fall-out and the multi-front assault on Al Haymon is a field day for involved legal counsel, which may have far reaching effects on the future of the marketing and promotion of super fights, how boxing’s powerbrokers handle the careers of their boxers going forward, and whether boxing’s latest run at the public’s consciousness will be short-circuited by a skirting of the sport’s legal and regulatory framework by its most prominent player. Whether the fans ultimately win or lose as a result of any of this legal maneuvering is unclear. What is apparent, however, is that some of boxing’s next super-fights may take place in before a court reporter, judge, or jury — rather than a referee and a worldwide audience.

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