By Rick Reeno
The tug of war over middleweight prospect Harry Joe Yorgey (21-0-1, 9KOs) is likely to end up in a court of law. To bring everyone up to date, I'm going backtrack the details of the ongoing legalfest.
Yorgey is scheduled to appear on the March 7 edition of ESPN's Friday Night Fights at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut. Jimmy Deoria, manager of Yorgey, says he never gave his boxer permission to move forward with the fight, which is promoted by Arthur Pelullo of Banner Promotions. Deoria alleges that Pelullo lured his fighter into a deal by promising him dates on ESPN.
"This is a violation of my contract for Yorgey to fight on the card without my approval. I advised Pelullo, the casino and ESPN, the fight is a violation of my contract with Yorgey," Deoria said. "They are allowing this fight to happen when the manager has not signed off on the fight. I was told, my fighter went to talk with Mr. Pelullo and he advised Yorgey and his father that Don Elbaum (adviser) and I can't get him on ESPN and he could.”
BoxingScene.com has obtained a letter dated February 11, written by attorney David Berlin, who represents Deoria and Elbaum. The letter, sent to ESPN, promoter Arthur Pelullo and other parties involved, set a deadline of February 15 for the removal of Yorgey from March 7 event. If Yorgey is not removed from the card, a lawsuit is expected.
A hearing to determine the validity of Deoria's managerial contract with Yorgey, has been scheduled for February 20 before the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. Yorgey has also retained counsel, John O. O'Boyle, and says that Elbaum's contract as an advisor is no longer valid. The potential lawsuit will allege tortious interference of Deoria's managerial contract, and tortious interference with Elbaum‘s contract.
In the middle of the story is Doug Loughrey, the boxing program director for ESPN, who may have placed the network in the middle of the lawsuit.
BoxingScene obtained a copy of a letter dated January 10, also sent by attorney David Berlin, to Eric Kemmler, associate general counsel for ESPN. In the letter, Berlin points to a conversation which took place between him and Loughrey on January 9.
According to Berlin, he contacted Loughrey to advise him of the valid contracts that exist between his clients and Yorgey. Rather than to immediately direct him to the ESPN legal counsel, or direct him to sort out the situation with Pelullo himself, Loughrey took it upon himself to engage Berlin by questioning the validity of Elbaum’s contract. The end result was a heated conversation with Loughrey hanging up the phone on Berlin.
I should note that Loughrey did at one point during the conversation, direct Berlin to speak to ESPN's legal counsel, but prior to do so, he allegedly made repeated legal determinations by questioning the validity of Elbaum's contract, which goes directly against the company policy of ESPN.
I cite a paragraph from a letter dated February 12, written by ESPN's counsel Eric L. Kemmler, and sent to all parties involved.
"Further, and most pertinent to this situation, not having any judicial or regulatory authority, ESPN does not presume to resolve disputes between promoters, managers or any persons about the validity and enforcement of contractual rights. We must leave such disputes to the parties and the governmental bodies that have the power to resolve them."
Some may recognize Loughrey's name from my series of articles that outlined the dispute between him and Teddy Atlas, ringside analyst for ESPN's Friday Night Fights Series. On January 11, at ESPN‘s televised fight card in Florida, a verbal confrontation took place between Atlas and Loughrey.
According to numerous sources, Atlas confronted Loughrey over allegedly showing favoritism to certain promoters and matchmakers, who were abusing their ESPN connections by taking fighters from other promoters with promises of potential ESPN dates. The verbal exchange was aggressive and heard by many who were present at the event.
Because of the confrontation, Atlas was suspended by ESPN for a period of one-week. The company also began an internal inquiry into Loughrey and the basic facts of the subject matter involved in his argument with Atlas.
The lead investigator on the inquiry, who I won't name for the moment, phoned several boxing promoters to obtain information as to their dealings with Loughrey. I have a feeling that ESPN fully expected the promoters to issue nothing but praise for Loughrey. The exact opposite took place. Several promoters stepped up and gave detailed accounts of their alleged mistreatment by Loughrey and there were allegations of favoritism.
The story here is bigger than Harry Yorgey or the suspension of Teddy Atlas. The story is about the possibility of ESPN's boxing division being compromised.
According to sources, the information given by the few promoters who came forward to make a difference during this investigation, was later leaked to Loughrey, allegedly. During phone conversations with some of the promoters who came forward, Loughrey allegedly revealed his knowledge of the conversations which took place between these particular promoters and the investigator who called them. In other words, it's being alleged that Loughrey had full knowledge of the names on ESPN's list (of promoters being contacted), and he knew exactly what was said to the investigator.
If this is true, it paints a clear picture of why the sport of boxing continues to have problems and why so many are not coming forward to correct them.
During these series of articles, I've spoken with dozens of well-known promoters, insiders, matchmakers and managers in the business. Very few had anything positive to say about Loughrey or his knowledge of the boxing business. Because of the way Loughrey's inquiry was handled by ESPN, few were willing to speak about him on the record. Many were concerned with being blacklisted by the network for voicing their opinions on the subject.
Many were concerned, but not all.
Well-known boxing promoter Michael Acri was willing to speak with BoxingScene about Loughrey and his feelings on the subject matter. Acri, like myself, has heard many of the alleged horror stories from promoters, regarding their dealings with Loughrey.
"If this guy doesn't seem to get along with matchmakers and promoters as so many people are saying, then why does a big organization like ESPN keep him in that position despite the fact that he's not a boxing guy like Russell Peltz or Bob Yalen. I think ESPN needs to put a boxing guy or someone who likes boxing in that position," Acri said.
"If he doesn't like his job and has this attitude towards people who are presenting fights, it doesn't make any sense why ESPN should keep him instead of having a boxing guy or someone who likes boxing doing the job. I have no axe to grind against Loughrey. I’ve asked him for two dates in the last four years and he's given me one so I’m batting 500. I don’t ask for dates from ESPN's network."
When asked to elaborate as to why he doesn't request dates from ESPN, Acri would only say "there are lots of reasons."
In the end, Acri doesn't think anything will come out of the ESPN's investigation of Loughrey. He feels the network will simply try to "present a kinder, gentler Loughrey."