MONTREAL - Groupe Yvon Michel (GYM) president Yvon Michel has responded accordingly to unfounded allegations recently made in the media by Sullivan Barrera about GYM and its undefeated world light heavyweight contender, Artur Beterbiev, to set the record straight regarding the recently announced cancelled Beterbiev-Barrera International Boxing Federation (IBF) light heavyweight title eliminator.
"Despite Barrera's claims," Michel insisted, "he didn't sign a contract because he never intended for fight Artur. In Team Barrera's letter, he lied and showed his ignorance trying to distract from the facts.
"For the conclusion of this unfortunate saga, the IBF has informed me that it has ruled to ban Barrera from its world rankings, or from participating in one of its sanctioned fights, for the next six months. I've also been informed that, if nobody in the IBF top 10 is available and agrees to fight Artur, the IBF will declare him as its No. 1 mandatory challenger for the winner of the Ward-Kovalev rematch. Artur will be back in the ring in late April, early May. The mandatory defense for the Ward-Kovalev II winner, or Ward if that fight doesn't happen, is due in September."
IBF Light Heavyweight Ratings: Champion - Andre Ward, 1. Unrated, 2. Artur Beterbiev, 3. Sergey Kovalev, 4. Erik Skoglund, 5. Enrico Kolling, 6. SUSPENDED, 7. Oleksandr Gvozdyk, 8. Dominic Bosel , 9. Robert Stieglitz, 10. Trent Broadhurst.
Below, Michel sets the record straight, point-by-point, in terms of the open letter Team Barrera sent to the media.
Michel didn't negotiate with Barrera's promoter, Kathy Duva, and asked for it to go to an immediate purse bid.
"Kathy Duva (CEO/Main Events) came to my office the day before the deadline set for Barrera's acceptance to participate in the IBF title eliminator to speak about the situation. Our hope was to fight Barrera but because he is prohibited from traveling to Canada, I confirmed our intention with Ms. Duva to accommodate Barrera and leave Canada and make the fight in the United States. We were in the same position a year ago, when Barrera pulled out of the same title eliminator because he couldn't get a visa to fight in Canada. Artur was then supposed to fight Karo Murat, but he suffered an injury and was unable to fight. Barrera later defeated Murat to move into the IBF mandatory position in which he then lost to Andre Ward.
"Kathy told me the number she had in mind to make the fight. I said that I would see if there were enough resources for that amount and promised to call her the following day. I did and explained that there weren't enough resources to meet that purse structure. Nevertheless, not long after I received confirmation Barrera was officially taking the challenge, I then decided to move forward and immediately requested a purse bid date, which is the prerogative of any promoter, knowing what was Main Events' expectation in terms of their fighter's purse. In this business, everybody knows the best way to determine the true market value of a fight is a purse bid, where promoters are evaluating their resources and making their bid accordingly. We still had still seven days to make an offer, one and other, and make a deal up to five minutes before the bid was due. Main Events never made us an offer and neither did we."
GYM's winning purse bid was $251,000, substantially more than Main Events' bid of $182,000, of which Beterbiev would receive 75-percent of the winning bid. Barrera would have received $62,750, compared to $45,500 he would have earned if his own promoter had won the bid.
Beterbiev reported on social media that his fight versus Barrera would be held March 4th in Brooklyn, New York and Michel reported that the fight would be held in late March, early April, in New York. Barrera had trained for those dates but didn't receive a contract.
"GYM won the purse and pursuant to IBF rules and regulations, the fight had to be held within 30 to 90 days," Michel continued. "We deposited $50,000, per IBF rules, and received a confirmation letter from the IBF all was conform. As per IBF regulations, within 15 days after the purse bid, we filed contracts for the two fighters. Artur signed his five minutes after he received the contract and it was then sent to the IBF. We executed Barrera's contract, sending it to Main Events for Barrera with a copy sent to the IBF. Soon after I received notice from the IBF that everything was in order and that we had complied with the IBF requirements."
Michel sent an improper agreement to Main Event listing various dates.
"We knew we had a PBC date, either April 14, 21 or 29. It's very common for fight dates written in the initial fighter contract to vary one week before or after the date listed. I contacted IBF president Daryl Peoples and said April 21st was the most likely date but that it could end up being a week earlier or after. He recommended to be transparent and to write all three potential dates into the contract. We did and then sent it to Main Events for Barrera to sign. Main Events noted that IBF rules said only one date and site could be written in the contract. Daryl complied with the objection so we then officially confirmed April 21st would be the date of the fight and Florida the site. We then sent a GYM executed corrected IBF bout agreement back to Main Events to be signed by Barrera and filed with the IBF on February 16th.
"Meanwhile, GYM received a request, from Main Event to produce a Provision of Service agreement for Barrera's participation. GYM was not obliged to positively fulfill that request but, as a display of good faith, we did so in belief the contract that Barrera would sign and Main Events would file it at the IBF office, on that date, as per its rules. Soon after, GYM received a letter from IBF championship chairman, Mr. Lindsey Tucker, that all requirements had been fulfilled to officially sanction the bout."
The Florida location for the fight had been selected by GYM for three reasons. 1. Beating Barrera in his own backyard would send strong message for Beterbiev within the division; 2. GYM had received an offer from Miami-based SMY Sports and Entertainment's president M. Eric Senecal, who wanted the buy the rights to produce the event; 3. GYM'S longtime and very close relationship with Florida-based Warriors Promotions, Mr. Leon Margules.
On behalf of GYM, Margules had reserved the April 21st date with the Florida Athletic Commission. SMY Sports & Entertainments made a deal with GYM that had a deadline to deposit the agreed upon money guarantee. They had reserved the Seminole Hard Rock arena in Fort Lauderdale. If SMY was not able to deliver money and site, GYM had a backup plan, proposed by Margules, who had a deal and a site on hold, Hialeah Racetrack in nearby Hollywood (FL). No matter what would transpire, the fight was guaranteed at a site in Florida, April 21st for a PBC event to be televised on FS1.
Barrera's manager was contacted by one of the promoters to help pay Yvon Michel and finance the bout.
"This is a tortuous claim and a terrible lie," Michel said. "Nobody representing GYM ever made that kind of request. The truth is a local promoter, M. Michael Luzbet, whom I'd never met and never made any deals of any sorts with in the past, wanted to be a partner with SMY Sports and Entertainments. He tried to raise his share of money to participate but SMY rapidly disassociated themselves from Michael Luzbet.
"How the group (SMY) was raising money wasn't really my concern, but they had found sponsors and were counting on the important Quebec community residing in Florida at that time of the year, as well as the important Cuban population and their contacts with the Russian community, to sell VIP tables and tickets. It wanted the rights to put the show on in Florida but they were concerned because they had heard a rumor that Barrera hadn't signed a contract and he was going to pull out of the fight.
They then requested a guarantee that Barrera (who lives in Miami) was going to fight before confirming their money deposit. I was in Quebec City at that time for the Alvarez-Bute fight. Mr. Lindsey Tucker was there representing the IBF and I spoke to him. He said he believed the IBF had received a signed contract from Barrera. I contacted SYM to say everything was fine and that I had requested a copy (of the Barrera-signed contract) from Lindsey. Daryl People then informed me that there was a misunderstanding and they did not have a signed contract from Barrera. It is only then I realized Main Events had pressured Barrera to sign the agreement without success. We asked the IBF president to pressure Main Events to have Barrera sign the contract because, without it, we were jammed in the promotion of the event. This is exactly what happened."
Team Barrera implied that Yvon Michel couldn't promote a show of this magnitude in the U.S.
"I've promoted more than 200 shows, never defaulting or cancelling a single show, including involvement in more than 50 world championship fights and many multi-million dollars events, much bigger than this title eliminator. This statement just shows his ignorance about what we're all about and who we are and was just smoke screen to his behavior. I've promoted shows with the majority of the major promoters in the world; DiBella Entertainment, Warriors Promotions, Don King Promotions, Golden Boy, Main Events... just about everybody. It was unbelievable for them to write such an impertinent line."
Team Barrera unjustly belittled the quality of Beterbiev's last two opponents, calling them cow farmers from Argentina.
"This is terrible to be so insolent to fellow world contenders. Both fighters were world ranked in the top 15 at that time. (Ezequiel Osvaldo) Maderna (23-2, 16 KOs) had never been knocked out and (Isidro) Prieto (26-1-3, 22 KOs) had suffered only one loss, a decision to the WBC #1 contender Eleider Alvarez. Beterbiev knocked them both out (Maderna in the fourth round, Prieto in the first), so downgrading the quality of Artur's 2016 opponents was totally unwarranted. If Barrera ever actually got into the ring with Beterbiev, he would have fallen into the same category as Maderna and Prieto, who were both fierce competitors but not in the same league of Beterbiev."
Michel firmly believes Barrera never intended to fight Beterbiev for his share of the purse bid and, to cover up, he tried to place the blame on others. His promoter spent time and money for the bid at the request of its fighter, Barrera, believing he had a legitimate chance of winning the fight. It is obvious that sentiment was not shared by Barrera, even if the fight was to be held in his own backyard in Florida.
"The truth of this matter is that Barrera lied to distract media attention from the fact he didn't sign a contract and clearly wanted no part of Beterbiev," Michel concluded. "We don't disrespect any contender who prefers not to challenge Artur Beterbiev for the mandatory position. We also believed that Main Events did everything in its power to convince their fighter to keep his words and to go forward with the fight. Main Events is not at blame. We also have respect for Barrera's fighting abilities but we have no respect for the person Barrera is with his despicable, unprofessional, shameful and disgraceful attitude in handling the present situation.
"On a personal note, I have never met Sullivan Barrera. I never had to directly communicate with him, I never had to do business with him, everything went through his promoter, Main Events, and I really don't envy them! Soon, GYM will have two light heavyweight world champions and I can guarantee Barrera will never be in their plans.
"We've moved on from Sullivan Barrera to find an opponent who has the desire to step into the ring to fight Artur Beterbiev. While Barrera will still be suspended by the IBF, Beterbiev will be World Champion!"
Beterbiev, a two-time Russian Olympian, holds two amateur victories over his fellow countryman, Kovalev, the former world light heavyweight champion. Whether it's Kovalev or Ward, Artur Beterbiev will be more than ready for the challenge to fight for the world light heavyweight championship this September.