By Rick Reeno
Willie Savannah, manager of WBO/WBA/IBF lightweight champion Juan Diaz (33-0, 17KOs), is livid with promoter Don King, after receiving word that HBO canceled the Feb. 9 bout with mandatory challenger Michael Katsidis (23-0, 20KOs).
Several weeks ago at the WBO headquarters in Puerto Rico, Oscar De La Hoya gained the promotional rights to the fight with a winning purse bid of $1.5 million. Diaz's promoter Don King was overseas and not present for the WBO purse bid. King stood firm on his claim of a clause in Diaz's contract which prevents the boxer from fighting for another promoter pursuant to a winning purse bid.
Sampson Lewkowicz, matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions and agent to Katsidis, told Dong Secuya of Philboxing on Thursday, the fight with Diaz was off due to an issue with the fight contract. Savannah later told BoxingScene.com , the fight was still going forward, and Diaz had signed a contract.
After learning that Diaz had signed a fight contract to face Katsidis, Don King issued a letter to HBO, outlining his position on the fight taking place. Sensing an all-out legal battle was ready to erupt, the network pulled the plug.
There is still hope.
Savannah told BoxingScene that HBO reserved the date of March 8, hoping all of the parties involved can come to an agreement. Diaz's contract with King runs out on March 31.
"Don King threatened to sue HBO. We signed the contract for the fight. "Only in America" can a person like Don King prevent a person from making a living. Not at any time did he try to make this fight. He made no effort with us, and no effort with Katsidis. He didn't come to the purse bid or send a representative and as soon as Golden Boy won the bid, he didn't want the fight to happen. There were days when he wouldn't even return my lawyer, Fred Levin's phone calls," Savannah said. "I can't believe this is the guy George Bush sent to hang out with the troops, only in America, and he came back to America to screw a troop from making a living."
Savannah told BoxingScene he's more shocked that HBO let King jump in to prevent the fight from moving forward. As we previously reported, Savannah said HBO had already agreed to offer King a sum of $1.5 million several months, for Diaz to fight Katsidis or any suitable opponent approved by the network. Savannah says King was using the HBO offer as a bargaining chip to secure an extension of his contract with Diaz. King was told by Savannah that no further options or extensions would be given.
"I was really shocked that HBO would allow a person like Don King to hamper a 24-year-old kid from making a living by not televising this fight. I was a member of the communications union of Pacific Railroad, and most place have a right to work law, and Don King has prevented a person from his right to work. He prevented Juan from making $1.2 million dollars on Feb. 9. I'm sure that John McCain, sponsor of the with the Muhammad Ali disclosure, and President Bush would be proud to know that their main man is out to prevent an American from working. HBO drops the ball by not going ahead with the fight on Feb. 9 in fear of a lawsuit from Don King," Savannah said.
Although the fight is currently off, Savannah has yet to receive official notice in writing from any of the involved parties. Savannah tells BoxingScene that Diaz will continue to prepare for Feb. 9 until he receives an official notice of the fight being off.
"As far as I'm concerned we've not been officially notified by HBO, Don King, or Golden Boy that fight is off for February 9th in Houston. I had to find out from the grapevine," Savannah said.