By Ryan Maquiñana
The trying year for promoter Dan Goossen continues, as longtime business partner Antonio Leonard sued him in a Texas court last week for breach of contract regarding their alleged arrangement to co-promote super middleweight world champion Andre Ward.
Law360’s Jeff Sistrunk first reported the news.
According to court documents obtained by BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com, Leonard claims that Goossen, CEO of Goossen Tutor Promotions, backed out of a 2011 oral agreement whereby the two promoters would split the revenue gathered from the live gate, foreign television sales, site fees, sponsorships, merchandising, as well as the remainder of the domestic television license fee (after expenses), from each of six Ward bouts over a period of three years.
To finalize the deal, Leonard also states that he and Goossen gave Ward a $550,000 signing bonus, and that the co-promoters covered the amount by each paying the fighter $275,000.
The first of the six fights in this purported agreement was Ward’s 10th-round stoppage of Chad Dawson in September 2012; per Leonard’s complaint, all parties “received their respective amounts due.”
However, Leonard claims his lawsuit arose when Goossen allegedly notified him that Goossen Tutor would pull out of the oral contract before the second fight -- Ward's HBO-televised unanimous decision victory over Edwin Rodriguez on Nov. 16 in Ontario , Calif.
The complaint alleges that after the fighters deducted their respective purses (Ward $1.9 million, Rodriguez $1 million according to the California State Athletic Commission), both Leonard and Goossen were slated to make around $112,500 apiece from HBO’s license fee alone. Adding the other aforementioned revenue streams, Leonard estimated that the co-promoters ultimately would make over $287,500 each.
But according to the complaint, Goossen is not only withholding the amount in dispute from last week’s card, he is also planning to promote the remaining fights on the deal on his own. Leonard has projected that each co-promoter would earn “an amount exceeding $850,000” if Ward goes through with his next four bouts.
As a result, Leonard has requested the Harris County District Court to require Goossen to pay Leonard his alleged share from the Rodriguez fight in addition to “50 (percent) of all funds realized from the future four Ward fights” delineated in the oral contract. Combined with attorneys’ fees and other costs, the damages would exceed $1 million.
Ward’s relationship with Goossen began in 2004 after the fighter captured the Olympic gold medal at light heavyweight. Ward turned pro later that year and signed a co-promotional deal with Goossen Tutor and Square Ring. In 2008, Leonard bought out Square Ring and would appear frequently with Goossen for Ward's press conferences.
Now 27-0 with 14 knockouts, Ward has risen to the second spot in most observers’ pound-for-pound rankings as the best fighter in the world regardless of weight class. Under the Goossen and Leonard banners, Ward has also become one of HBO’s marquee fighters since leaving rival network Showtime before the clash with Dawson.
But this summer, Ward grew unhappy with the dynamic within his team, and attempted to terminate his contract with Goossen Tutor by calling an emergency hearing with the California commission. In a June interview with HBO’s Jim Lampley, Ward accused Goossen of acting unilaterally during contract talks with the premium cable giant .
"I simply want my co-promoter Antonio Leonard … and my trusted advisor and manager (James Prince), who, frankly, I've known long before I ever met Dan Goossen, to be at the negotiating table and in the room talking to the network and helping to negotiate my fights,” Ward said.
Despite Ward’s reasoning, the commission ruled in Goossen’s favor and upheld the contract’s validity. In turn, the fighter, who had been inactive for 14 months due to a surgically repaired right shoulder, reconciled with the promoter and proceeded with the Rodriguez bout -- even though there was further discord during pre-fight negotiations involving Goossen and Ward’s attorney , Josh Dubin.
“Our main key here was just getting (Andre) back in the ring again,” Goossen told BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com after the fight. “Where we go from here, I think, we got to sit down, get this ship on a firm course, and stop having the machine going in all different directions.
Unfortunately, it appears that the resolution might be short-lived. One also must wonder what these developments mean for Ward and other fighters in the Goossen Tutor stable with ties to Leonard and Prince, such as super middleweight Brandon Gonzales (18-0-1, 10 KOs), heavyweight Bowie Tupou (22-3, 16 KOs) and junior welterweight Ricardo Williams (21-3, 11 KOs).
BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com reached Goossen via telephone Friday, but he would not comment on Leonard’s lawsuit.
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine's Ratings Panel. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net or follow him on Twitter @RMaq28.