The team of lightweight contender George Kambosos has asked the IBF to invalidate Matchroom Boxing’s winning purse bid for a title elimination fight against Lee Selby and give the rights to Kambosos promoter Lou DiBella, the under bidder, asserting that Matchroom Boxing has not followed IBF rules and is not dealing in good faith.
The IBF has not ruled on the issue but instead held a conference call on Monday with representatives of DiBella Entertainment and Matchroom Boxing to try to get them to work things out, sources told BoxingScene. DiBella, Hearn, their attorneys and IBF president Daryl Peoples were among those on the call, according to sources.
Hearn won the promotional rights to the bout on September 1, bidding $277,777 to beat DiBella’s offer of $260,000.
Australia’s Kambosos (18-0, 10 KOs), 27, who trains in South Florida, is ranked higher by the IBF and entitled to 60 percent ($166,666.20) with 40 percent ($111,110.80) going to former featherweight world titlist Selby (28-2, 9 KOs), 33, of Wales. Hearn has 90 days to put on the bout and initially said he would stage it in the final week of November or the first week of December.
The fight was initially scheduled for May 9 in Cardiff, Wales, but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was rescheduled for Oct. 3 with Kambosos’ side agreeing to a package of $150,000. However, when Hearn said that for the fight to go forward without spectators they would have to take a reduction to $100,000. The Kambosos side refused and the purse bid was held.
According to sources, some progress was made during Monday’s conference call with Hearn saying he would consider moving the fight from Oct. 3 to Oct. 31 in order to allow Kambosos the necessary time to finish training, travel to the United Kingdom and go through a quarantine period, although nothing was finalized.
DiBella was seeking to have the purse bid result thrown out for various reasons outlined in a letter his lawyer, Alex Dombroff, sent to the sanctioning body last week, a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.
“Matchroom’s conduct has failed to comply both with IBF rules and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing that is legally required in any matter of contract,” Dombroff wrote. “DBE hereby requests that Matchroom’s winning bid at the September 1 purse bid be canceled pursuant to IBF Rule 10.F(2) and the bid be awarded to DiBella Entertainment as the next highest bidder.” According to IBF rules, the winning promoter must within 15 days provide the IBF a signed copy of the bout agreement. Among things required to be included in the contract are the purse amount, date, site and specific location of the bout.
In the letter to the IBF, DiBella said when Matchroom sent a bout agreement on September 12 it failed to include a site or venue, only stating the fight would staged at “a closed venue to be confirmed in the UK” and that the fight would be on Oct. 3.
“In no instances can ‘a closed venue to be confirmed in the UK’ constitute a venue or site, as contemplated in the IBF rules,” Dombroff wrote. “While this assuredly does not have to be further explained, the United Kingdom is comprised of four different countries and literally thousands of individual venues that are equipped to stage boxing. It is no different than stating ‘the bout will take place in North America.’ … This issue alone requires the IBF to cancel Matchroom’s bid.
“The bout agreement sent at almost midnight on Saturday is rife with bad faith that is also worthy of exploration and indicative of Matchroom’s intent to never put on the elimination bout in question.”
When asked about the situation on Friday, Hearn told BoxingScene, “As per IBF rules we had to give a date for the fight between 28 and 90 days. We gave October 3. The contract stated ‘at a closed venue in the U.K.’ i.e. behind closed doors. This was never contested by Lou and there is no reason for it to be. Basically Kambosos isn’t ready.”
In the letter to the IBF, DiBella questioned why Hearn said the fight would be in November or December after winning the purse bid but then listed October 3 in the bout agreement.
“The first time DBE was informed that Matchroom was still contemplating the October 3 date was when it was received in the bout agreement,” the letter said.
“Providing less than three weeks’ notice for a bout of this magnitude would almost always be considered an exercise in bad faith. However, the specific facts of this instance exasperate the matter. Predominantly, as a resident of Australia and immigrant to the United Kingdom, Mr. Kambosos is subject to stringent quarantine requirements in both jurisdictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment, the Australian government requires a 14-day quarantine for residents to leave the country, which would occupy more than 2/3 of the time until the contemplated date and is to say nothing of requirements he would face in the United Kingdom. Quite frankly, it would be unsafe for Mr. Kambosos to compete on October 3 given the blunted training schedule he would face as a result of COVID-19 quarantines.”
Dombroff asserted that Matchroom surely would know about the quarantine requirements because it has put on several shows since those protocols were put in place.
“What the conduct of Matchroom suggests is that it has never intended to do the elimination bout on October 3, nor any date,” Dombroff wrote. “Instead, Matchroom has attempted to create a context whereby Mr. Kambosos would be deemed unavailable by the IBF. This is, of course, counter to the principles of fairness that are at the foundation of the IBF Rules and the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing necessitated in all matters of contract. To be clear, DBE and Mr. Kambosos still desire to move forward with an elimination bout versus Mr. Selby as soon as is both (practical) and fair. Further, DBE remains prepared to promote the bout on the same terms as its bid on September 1.”
If the fight takes place, the winner would become the mandatory challenger for the 135-pound belt held by Teofimo Lopez Jr., who is scheduled for a unification fight against Vasiliy Lomachenko on Oct. 17.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.