by David P. Greisman
We’ve gone from prolonged frustration to hopeless resignation following the failure of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to get into the ring with each other. We’ve gone from leveraging to bickering, from negotiation to litigation.
We’ve had Pacquiao pursue a defamation lawsuit against Mayweather that has dragged on, with the case spreading to filings in other states, and as their attorneys have filed enough motions that the combined case dockets now probably outweigh both Pacquiao and Mayweather put together.
We need some momentary Mayweather/Pacquiao levity.
The last location you’d think we’d find it would be back in the judicial system — that same system that has become the only place in which “Pacquiao vs. Mayweather” is a reality.
But that’s indeed where we find it, beginning with a one-page, one-paragraph civil motion, scrawled out by hand and filed May 11, 2009, with the U.S. District Court’s Central District of Illinois, located in Rock Island.
The plaintiff claims to be an infamous Ponzi schemer and also a former middleweight and light heavyweight champion: Bernard Madoff, doing business as Jonathan Lee Riches, also known as Bernard Hopkins. (Riches, obviously, is the plaintiff’s actual identity.)
The defendants? In order, as written: Manny Paquiao [sic], Freddie Roach, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Ricky Hatton, Philippines.
“I face danger and harm from Manny Paquiao who wants to kill me for not paying him his prize earnings from his fraudulent May 2, las vegas knockout win with Ricky Hatton,” it begins.
This is a preliminary injunction and a motion for a temporary restraining order. Our esteemed, endangered plaintiff explains more:
“I was the organizer and Promoter of this fight. I refuse to pay Paquiao. Shane Mosley injected Paquiao with steroids and Hgh 2 hours before he fought Hatton. I have the needles in my possession, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. put cinder blocks in Paquiao’s gloves, so Paquiao could punch harder and Ricky Hatton’s water bottle was tainted with Lunesta.
“Paquiao told me he is going to use my head as a punching bag if I don’t pay him. I financed this whole Paquiao v. Hatton fight with stolen ponzi money. Paquiao’s Boxing shorts were bought with Oscar De La Hoya’s stolen Visa card. Paquiao refuses to talk about this because in vegas, what happens here, stays here.
“I forged a fraudulent travel visa so Paquiao could fight in the U.S. I’m starving in Prison, I weigh only 110 Lbs at 5 ft 10 inches, Paquiao told me if I don’t pay him that he is going to drop down to 112 Lbs and Box me thrilla in Manilla part 2. paquiao's 49-3-2 record is tainted, I bribed record keepers with Americans ponzi money to take 46 loses [sic] on Paquiao’s record. Paquiao is really 49-49-2, he knows this.
“I made Paquiao a fraudulent Birth certificate on my computer, I also did one for Danny Amante the Little leaguer. Freddie Roach wants his Money cut too, he threatened to burn me with a marajuana Roach and Freddie Roach threatened to Squash me like a cock roach if I don’t Pay him. I seek restraining orders.”
It’s no surprise that just a week later Judge Joe Billy McDade dismissed the case as frivolous. The case against Pacquiao, Roach, Mosley, Mayweather, what the court clerk misread as “Ricky Hutton” and the entire country of “Philippines” came back earlier this year, however.
That’s because the plaintiff, Riches, was a federal inmate who has reached a certain degree of infamy. Riches has his own Wikipedia page that people have set up in his honor, explaining that the 35-year-old “was incarcerated at Federal Medical Center, Lexington, Kentucky, for wire fraud under the terms of a plea bargain.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons website says Riches was released from its custody on April 30, 2012. That hasn’t prevented him from filing more bizarre lawsuits.
And that’s because filing bizarre lawsuits has been what Riches does. As the Wikipedia page noted, “The state of his mental health is not publicly known, and it has not been concluded whether all the lawsuits Riches has filed are genuine or if he is just trying to amuse himself.”
Federal court records show that Riches has filed 2,630 cases — against Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie and their four children, against companies (including Wal-Mart and U.S. Airways), celebrities (John Travolta, DMX, the Kardashians) and even government entities. He’s filed against presidents (of this country and others) and athletes.
And though he lost the original Pacquiao-Mayweather case — and was ordered to have the $350 docketing fee removed from his prison trust fund account — he tried to keep this case alive, with another amusing entry into the legal system from just this past June:
“I appeal this case,” Riches begins, with the only line of the entire filing — again, handwritten on one page and in one long paragraph — that doesn’t come off as crazy. As with the above, all the spelling and capitalization (or lack thereof) is precisely as written.
“Manny Paquiao continues to spar and Beat my face to a pulp, like pulp fiction, and Paquiao forced me to Faceoff with John TravoLta on Facebook. I injected Paquiao with steroids in all of Paquiao’s pro fights in 2009, 2010, 2011. I got the Roids from Barry Bonds from a hidden stash in his house. Arrest Bracelet. Pacquiao is Laundering PhiLapino President Marocos’s Wealth.”
Read out loud, Riches’ court filings could make for serviceable beat poetry.
“Freddie Roach burnt my cheek with a Marajuna Roach. Paquiao Bit my Left ear off, Mike Tyson Bit my Right ear, and Mcgruff took a bite out of my Life. I was Forced in a prison octogon, chained to fight paquiao in Front of 1,000 federal inmates at fmc lexington and paquiao Split my Lip, blackened my eye Balls, shoved a boxing glove down my throat on July 4, 2011. I am Floyd Mayweathers secret promoter, and Paquiao wants to kill me because I refuse to let Mayweather fight Paquiao. I control everyones destiny”
He is both victim and god.
He wasn’t successful, however; Judge McDade asked Riches to file a memorandum stating why the appeal “should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction,” but Riches didn’t.
The case was dismissed last Monday, July 30.
Perhaps Riches truly is crazy, though in many ways so are the goings-on of our sport. Only boxing could ruin as simple a premise as two guys fighting and one guy winning, burdening the sport with complications, controversies and corruption.
Only boxing could take a sporting event such as Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr., a fight that in one night would make each man tens of millions of dollars, and find a way for their bout not to happen.
Only boxing could have that battle instead happen over the course of years in courtrooms and case filings, costing them money instead of earning them it.
It is enough to make you want to cry. We needed some momentary Mayweather/Pacquiao levity, then — in lieu of a reason to cheer, instead a reason to laugh.
The 10 Count
1. With the caveat that I’ve not watched much of Olympic boxing, this will be the second straight time that the United States team fares poorly. In 2008 there was but one medalist — heavyweight Deontay Wilder, who captured a bronze. This year, eight of the nine American men have been eliminated, and the only one left, welterweight Errol Spence, is around on the basis of a successful protest. (He is scheduled to fight a quarterfinal bout this Tuesday.)
Even in better years for American delegations, Olympic success hasn’t necessarily translated to stardom once the amateur fighters turned pro.
The last Olympian to win gold, Andre Ward in 2004, had some initial time in the spotlight in the early stages of his career (and is back in the spotlight now). But while he has ascended to the top of the super middleweight division and is respected as one of the best boxers today, he doesn’t have the fame that came back when boxing was bigger as a whole and amateur boxing was featured in front of larger audiences than those tuning in this year on CNBC.
The rest of the 2004 team had Rau’shee Warren, who remained amateur all the way through these Olympics; Ron Siler, who fell into all sorts of legal trouble; Vicente Escobedo, who has had an okay pro career but not an acclaimed one; Rock Allen, who was undefeated through 2009 and was in a bad motor vehicle crash last year; Vanes Martirosyan, who’s still awaiting the jump from prospect to contender; Andre Dirrell, who’s had more time on television than anyone else from his team besides Ward; Devin Vargas, who reached his limit as a middling heavyweight; and Jason Estrada, who could be described in the same way as Vargas.
The last group of American Olympics to receive a tremendous investment in promoter money and network time was the 2000 team, many of whom had their debuts on HBO and would continue to be featured over the years.
2. It’ll be interesting, then, to see what happens with the partnership between Golden Boy Promotions, Showtime and CBS. There will be two broadcasts on CBS, on Oct. 14 and Dec. 15, and potentially more to come, that will “showcase standout boxers from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games making their professional debuts,” according to a news release.
It’ll be interesting to see whether those showcased are primarily American fighters, or if other top international talents might also be featured. It’ll also be interesting to see whether the spotlight continues long past their debuts — and particularly whether the public cares to watch these young pros suddenly drop their quality of competition from what they met in the Olympics and face a presumed bunch of stiffs for the first few years of their careers.
3. From what I have seen of the Olympics, commentator Teddy Atlas just sounds so angry at the state of amateur scoring and the quality of the officiating, to the point that you wonder whether he’ll take this assignment again in 2016 (though there is talk that those Olympics will return to the 10-point must scoring system).
I feel sorry for Teddy. You’d think he’d have found heaven in the prospect of hours upon hours of broadcast time each day for him to jabber away.
4. You could look at the attendance figures for last month’s fight between Adrien Broner and Vicente Escobedo from two angles.
The seven-fight card at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, had a total attendance of 4,596, with 4,296 sold tickets and 300 tickets given away for free, according to the Ohio Athletic Commission.
However, the card brought in a total gate of only $136,890. That means that tickets sold, on average, for less than $32. On the surface, this could seem bad, but this could also be taken as an investment in a boxer who has now fought 11 of his 24 pro fights in his native Cincinnati, with two of his last three being at the U.S. Bank Arena.
He’s building a following, albeit at a lower price, but that could create a growing customer base that will come out in the future, and perhaps pay more for the pleasure.
That’s not as applicable an argument, however, if a majority of those tickets were sold at a discount.
5. While Broner-Escobedo was one of four major cards in the United States in June and July to sell more tickets than it gave away for free, half of the eight major cards were the complete opposite, with more freebies than sales.
The other three to have more sold than free:
The June 9 card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas featuring Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley had 13,229 tickets sold for a gate of $8,963,180, with 925 tickets comped.
The June 16 card at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Andy Lee had 10,799 tickets sold for a gate of $756,461, with 2,677 comped tickets.
The July 7 card at the Home Depot Center in Southern California featuring Nonito Donaire vs. Jeffrey Mathebula and Kelly Pavlik vs. Will Rosinsky sold 2,667 tickets for a gate of $149,246, with 677 tickets comped.
The four with more free than sold:
A June 2 quadruple-header at the Home Depot Center headlined by Antonio Tarver vs. Lateef Kayode had 1,200 sold tickets and a whopping 5,810 comps, for a total gate of $84,676.25.
A June 23 card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles headlined by Victor Ortiz vs. Josesito Lopez had 3,479 sold tickets and 3,862 comps. I couldn’t find the total gate while researching figures this weekend.
A July 14 card at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas featuring Amir Khan vs. Danny Garcia had 3,147 sold tickets and 3,365 comps, for a total gate of $426,150.
And the July 28 card at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., featuring Robert Guerrero vs. Selcuk Aydin had 2,891 sold tickets and 3,126 comps, for a total gate of $209,422.
(The above figures came via Keith Kizer of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Dan Rafael of ESPN.com and Mark Ortega of queensberry-rules.com.)
6. Pacquiao-Bradley and Chavez-Lee had a combined paid attendance of 24,028. The other six cards had a combined paid attendance of 17,680.
The combined number of free tickets for those other six cards, by the way, was 17,140.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly: Former junior featherweight titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 22 after an altercation with a couple that led to charges against all three involved, according to Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia (with translation help from a friend).
The alleged incident happened in July at a mall in Bayamon. Vazquez, a man named Joshua Cuadrado and a woman named Libniria Berrios Rivera each have been charged with one count of simple assault and one count of disturbing the peace. Those charges carry a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Vazquez, 28, was quoted in the article as saying he didn’t attack the couple, but was entering an area of the mall at the same time as the couple when the woman yelled at him and said something to the effect of “Why don’t you go first, you [expletive], if you’re in such a hurry?” Vazquez claims the woman also slapped his left cheek, and the man pushed him to the floor and held him there while the woman hit him.
He said he didn’t hit anyone. “I got them off of me because they were suffocating me,” Vazquez was quoted as saying in the newspaper. “I am incapable of hitting a woman or a kid because I’m Papito Vazquez. I’ve always been taught that I cannot use my hands to attack anyone. I cannot use my hands for my benefit to attack a person. I’m not going to throw my job away for two people that are nothing in my life.”
Vazquez last fought in February, losing a split decision to Nonito Donaire. The defeat dropped his record to 21-2-1 with 18 knockouts. He was scheduled to face Rafael Marquez this past Saturday, but that bout was postponed due to a hand injury Marquez suffered.
8. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part one: Retired Australian featherweight Lucky Gattellari has pleaded guilty to being one of four men allegedly involved in the 2009 shooting death of a Sydney businessman, according to the Australian Associated Press.
Gattellari, 62, was facing charges of “soliciting the murder and being an accessory after the fact,” the article said. He pleaded guilty to the accessory count.
His sentencing hearing has been set for Sept. 7.
Gattellari fought mainly from 1969 to 1973 and briefly held the Australian featherweight title. He came back in 1979 for a third-round stoppage loss to Barry Michael, who would go on to win a 130-pound title. The defeat dropped Gattellari’s record to 23-5 with 12 knockouts.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part two: And oh, yeah, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was released from jail last week, but there’s been like NO coverage of that.
10. Pretty soon, we’ll find out that Mayweather’s time in jail was all part of a master plan to spread his business influence to the movie industry, bulking up behind bars and filming a role in which he challenged prison heavyweight George “Iceman” Chambers in “Undisputed 3.”
It’s a shame Wesley Snipes only appeared in the first installment of that movie franchise. He and Mayweather could have all sorts of conversations about how not to pay the IRS on time…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]