by David P. Greisman
As previously reported, Main Events has filed a lawsuit against light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, boxing adviser Al Haymon, promoters Yvon Michel and Golden Boy Promotions, Showtime, and eight unnamed “John Doe” defendants.
BoxingScene.com has obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which can be seen at this link. It was first reported on by Scott Shaffer of BoxingTalk.com, and later by Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.
The lawsuit was filed on April 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Main Events is being represented by New Jersey-based attorney Patrick English.
There are five counts in the civil suit: breach of contract between Groupe Yvon Michel (GYM) and Main Events; breach of fiduciary duty by GYM; fraud by Yvon Michel; tortious interference with contract against Al Haymon, Golden Boy, Stevenson, Showtime and John Does 1-8; and interference with prospective econonomic advantage against Haymon, Golden Boy, Stevenson, Showtime and the John Does.
This is a continuation of the fallout from earlier this year, when a bout between Adonis Stevenson and Andrzej Fonfara was purchased by Showtime, which had outbid HBO for the bout. The May 24 bout between Stevenson and Fonfara and the March 29 fight between light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev and Cedric Agnew were initially intended to be on HBO to set up a collision between power-punching 175-pounders Stevenson and Kovalev later this year.
Except Stevenson reportedly sought 40 percent more money from HBO than the network was willing to pay for the Fonfara bout, and didn’t want to be tied into facing Kovalev immediately afterward. Showtime bid more, and seems to be setting up a fight between Stevenson and Bernard Hopkins. Kovalev did fight Agnew on HBO this past March.
Main Events, which promotes Kovalev, contends that it had an agreement with Michel and his Groupe Yvon Michel promotional company for Stevenson vs. Kovalev — a claim that Michel has denied in interviews (see the bottom of this story for links).
According to Main Events’ claims in the lawsuit, discussions between Duva, Michel and HBO were taking place in 2013 regarding putting Stevenson and Kovalev in separate bouts on the same card, and to build toward them fighting each other.
Kovalev stopped Ismayl Sillakh on Nov. 30 in Quebec City, and Stevenson scored the technical knockout over Tony Bellew in the main event. As the negotiations continued, Duva and Michel spoke over the phone and via email. The lawsuit claims that they came to terms on a co-promotional agreement on Jan. 23 of this year.
“Following a telephone conversation, Ms. Duva sent a deal memo reflecting what she believed had been agreed upon,” the lawsuit claims. “That memo detailed the material points of the co-promotion. That email was sent at approximately 1:53 p.m. At this stage, both parties understood that the deal was subject to the approval of the respective fighters.
“Mr. Michel responded with an email containing some less significant points. Mr. Michel’s email was sent at approximately 2:48 p.m. on January 23, 2014. The exchange of emails covered all material points, including how U.S. television revenues were to be split, how Canadian revenues were to be split, how international revenues were to be split, the target date for the fight, and the rights fee which would be acceptable for the bout in negotiations with HBO, which were contemplated to take place the following day, on January 24, 2014.
“Both promoters were to go to the respective fighters which their companies promoted to gain approval and confirm when they had done so. Ms. Duva did so, and at roughly 4:27 p.m. on January 23, 2014, wrote to Mr. Michel that, ‘This is acceptable to us. I have just spoken to Sergey’s manager. We have a deal on our end.’ … Some 3 ½ hours later, Mr. Michel replied to Ms. Duva with the following: ‘We also have a deal on our side!!:-) Let’s make a good sale to HBO and Peter new! [sic] Can you make sure this between us until we find the most timing to make an announcement?’ ”
The lawsuit claims that Michel, Duva and Peter Nelson of HBO spoke on a conference call on Jan. 24, with Nelson offering $2.4 million for the fight. It claims Michel accepted, while “Duva was nonplussed by this, believing that a potentially greater amount could be gained if the co-promoters continued the negotiations.” Yet Duva “did not wish to undercut her co-promoter, since the HBO offer was within the range previously agreed in writing.”
That, the lawsuit claims, meant an agreement had been “consummated” on Jan. 24. The lawsuit also claims that Michel and other representatives of his company repeated verbally afterward that an agreement was in place for the Stevenson-Kovalev co-promotion:
“Direct representations were made that acceptance had been approved by Mr. Stevenson and his attorney.”
The lawsuit claims that this remained true even after Stevenson signed with powerful boxing adviser Al Haymon in February.
Michel, according to the lawsuit, “continued to assert in conversations with Ms. Duva that a co-promotion deal had been made and, further, that Haymon had told him that there was no desire on his part to upset that deal. Those representations continued into March.”
The lawsuit refers to Haymon as a manager/adviser who “in many instances performs as a promoter” and “has entered into an alliance with Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy.”
It accuses Haymon and Schaefer of attempting “to wrest control of Golden Boy from Oscar De La Hoya for their own financial gain,” which ties in with the rumors and reports that have been in the boxing industry for the past few weeks.
( Schaefer spoke with BoxingScene’s Rick Reeno in this recent article:
“As part of this scheme, Schaefer has in some instances relinquished and in other instances not required promotional agreements with fighters which Golden Boy has built into attractions, in violation of his fiduciary duties, relying instead only on Haymon’s good will, placing the corporation in a weakened position,” the lawsuit accuses. “The concept is for Haymon and Schaefer to use Haymon’s fighter contracts to seek financing to both buy out De La Hoya and continue their violation of the Muhammad Ali Act in other respects for their financial gain.
“As part of this scheme, Haymon and Schaefer must show potential investors assets, including fighter contracts, and control of fighters and major fights to show that there is substance to potential investors,” the lawsuit claims, soon adding: “It is in connection with this scheme that Mr. Haymon’s interference with Main Events’ co-promotion agreement for the Stevenson-Kovalev bout becomes relevant. A management agreement with Adonis Stevenson is obviously a significant asset to show potential investors. Better still as an asset is an agreement for a major bout between a Golden Boy fighter and Mr. Stevenson.”
The lawsuit claims Michel told Duva that Stevenson vs. Kovalev wasn’t in trouble of not happening, but rather that Haymon was merely trying to get more money for the Stevenson-Fonfara bout.
“It was later disclosed that Haymon, with knowledge of the co-promotion deal between GYM and Main Events, was attempting to set up a bout between Stevenson and Golden Boy’s fighter, Bernard Hopkins, with Haymon negotiating directly with Showtime to the alleged exclusion of Mr. Michel.”
Showtime is also accused of interfering. The lawsuit claims that Showtime had been notified about the co-promotion, but that “Showtime made an offer negotiated through Al Haymon to telecast a Stevenson/Hopkins bout with, inter alia, the clear intent of disrupting the Stevenson/Kovalev bout.”
The lawsuit also portrays as a “bogus excuse” Michel’s claim that negotiations with HBO for a multi-fight agreement for Stevenson are related to the agreement to co-promote Kovalev-Stevenson.
“At no time did Mr. Michel ever suggest to any representative of Main Events that there was linkage between the HBO multi-fight agreement which he was negotiating and the co-promotion agreement to which he had agreed,” the lawsuit claims. “That television rights fee is and was available in the 2.4 million dollars agreed to on January 24, 2014 in the conference call with HBO’s representative. As reflected in the exchange of memos between Mr. Michel and Ms. Duva, moving forward with the Kovalev/Stevenson bout was contingent only upon an agreed rights fee for a single bout, to wit, the Kovalev/Stevenson bout.”
Here is Michel’s interview with Rick Reeno of BoxingScene.com in late March: https://www.boxingscene.com/adonis-stevensons-promoter-reveals-on-hbo-kovalev--76193
Duva of Main Events responded shortly afterward: https://www.boxingscene.com/duva-reveals-on-stevenson-kovalev-haymon-more--76287
BoxingScene also obtained emails between Michel and HBO regarding Stevenson:
Showtime and Leon Margules, the lawyer for Michel, declined comment to BoxingScene.
However, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy gave a brief statement on the lawsuit.
"Desperate people do desperate things. I don't even know why we are even mentioned in this lawsuit. I want to have our attorneys deal with it, but I think its a frivolous lawsuit. I don't understand it. We are not involved in any shape [with the dispute between Duva and Michel], so I don't even know why they mentioned us. Why are they suing us? This is frivolous and I'm not going to stand for it. I know we are living in a free country and anyone can sue anyone, but I'm going to have a serious talk with our attorneys. Kathy is a desperate person and desperate people do desperate things," Schaefer told BoxingScene.com.
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]