by David P. Greisman
Put aside the jokes about a man nicknamed “50 Cent” being worried about going broke. The rapper born Curtis Jackson is a multi-platinum multimillionaire who built up his bank account through the music industry and bolstered it through other investments.
There was no lack of money behind his fledgling boxing promotional company. The problem was that he lacked “Money” Mayweather.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., the best boxer in the world and the highest-paid athlete in sports, once was expected to join up with Jackson, taking Mayweather Promotions and turning it into a company named after another one of Mayweather’s slogans — “TMT Promotions,” short for “The Money Team.”
That never happened. There was no “Money.” They were no longer a team. And now, three years later, the company that instead was called SMS Promotions has filed in federal court for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The filing gives Jackson’s company the opportunity to try to reorganize, work out agreements to pay off debt, modify terms of contracts, and then attempt to emerge as a viable business. It listed between $100,000 and $500,000 in estimated liabilities and between $100,000 and $500,000 in estimated assets. Also checked off was a box indicating that SMS Promotions “estimates that, after any exempt property is excluded and administrative expenses paid, there will be no funds available for distribution to unsecured creditors.”
Despite that, an attorney for SMS Promotions claims the reorganized company will become “one of the leading promotion companies in the world of professional boxing,” according to a statement provided to news outlets.
That may be even more difficult for Jackson than it was when TMT Promotions was cast aside and SMS Promotions was instead founded — for many of the same reasons.
The bankruptcy filing isn’t wholly surprising. Given his nickname, it’s fitting that 50 Cent was short-changed from the start.
Jackson likely believed TMT Promotions would be influential from the outset because of Mayweather’s role, that fighters would want to sign on, and that the networks would seek to forge relationships.
He applied for company licenses to promote in New York and Nevada. He recruited a handful of fighters, most notably then-featherweight titleholder Billy Dib, featherweight contender Celestino Caballero, junior lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa, and super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell. While welterweights Andre Berto and Zab Judah were rumored to join, they never did.
Jackson wasn’t the only optimistic one. Others were quite premature with their predictions.
“I expect TMT Promotions to become the strongest promotional team in boxing, period. There are some very, very big plans that I can’t even reveal at this time, but they’re huge,” said Jeff Mayweather, an uncle to Floyd Jr. and a former boxer turned trainer, said in July 2012. “You’re working with a situation where you have a guy who is a brilliant businessman and he’s also very wealthy. Floyd of course, being who he is, it’s an awesome combination when you put the two of them together. And they’re still young guys that people can relate to. The young fighters want to be a part of it. … They’re off to a good crew of fighters. Basically, all the guys they signed are already established in the game.”
Wrote Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports: “As long as he’s [Jackson] fast friends with Mayweather and Mayweather continues to fight, he'll continue to be among the leading boxing powerbrokers.”
Much of this was going on while Mayweather was serving time in jail stemming from an incident of domestic violence against the mother of three of his kids. Jackson was there when Mayweather was released. Yet Mayweather didn’t want to take part in TMT Promotions. Jackson opted against suing Mayweather, though he was willing to sell off the fighters’ contracts.
Mayweather’s friendship with Jackson wasn’t as important to the boxer, or as valuable, as his longtime relationship with boxing adviser Al Haymon.
“He didn’t want to pay for the fighters. He wanted to try to take ‘em,” Jackson would later tell Anson Wainwright of RingTV.com in a 2014 interview. “He’s got me sending the contracts and agreements to Al Haymon’s lawyer. Trying to figure out how he can take the fighters instead of paying money for the fighters that we’d agreed to.”
Before 2012 was out, TMT Promotions became SMS Promotions, which is coincidentally only one letter away from “TMT” but is actually named after Jackson’s “SMS Audio” headphones company.
By the end of 2013, SMS had added junior middleweight James Kirkland. But Iole’s caveat was correct: Mayweather was necessary to the equation. Without him, Jackson was just another promoter trying to get a foothold in the business. He needed broadcast dates in order to lure fighters. And he needed fighters in order to get broadcast dates.
The fighters Jackson had signed were poor acquisitions.
Gamboa had been inactive since 2011. Jackson helped buy his contract out from promoter Top Rank for more than $1 million, but then needed Top Rank in order for Gamboa to appear in December 2012 on the pay-per-view undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.
Jackson was able to get Gamboa on an HBO broadcast in June 2013 on the undercard to Adonis Stevenson’s knockout of Chad Dawson. The card was co-promoted by Gary Shaw, who had Dawson as well as Gamboa’s opponent, Darleys Perez. Gamboa won but didn’t entertain, and he didn’t fight again for another year, losing a battle with lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford. Gamboa bounced back last November but hasn’t yet fought in 2015. He remains an SMS fighter.
Dib, an Australian fighter with no presence in the United States, promptly lost his title to Evgeny Gradovich in March 2013 on an episode of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.” He struggled in his next appearance, a win over Mike Oliver on another “Friday Night Fights” broadcast, then got stopped in a rematch with Gradovich on the pay-per-view undercard of Pacquiao’s win over Brandon Rios later in 2013. He returned with three wins in 2014, then was taken out in three rounds by 130-pound titleholder Takashi Miura last month.
Caballero never fought in 2012 and never appeared on an SMS Promotions show in the time since, losing in an upset via split decision to Robinson Castellanos in Panama in early 2013, coming back with a win in Panama, then dropping another fight on the scorecards to Adrian Estrella in Mexico in October 2014. He has since retired.
Dirrell had only returned in late 2011 from a layoff of more than a year and a half off following the head injury he suffered from being hit while down in his fight with Arthur Abraham. He was able to return in early 2013 underneath a minor Top Rank broadcast, pulled out of an appearance on an SMS episode of “Friday Night Fights” without any reason provided publicly, didn’t fight again that year and never fought for the promoter again. By mid-2014, Dirrell had returned to Haymon.
“He [Jackson] tried to make moves for me that unfortunately he wasn't able to get,” Dirrell told FightHype.com at the time. “We all know he was kind of pushed to the back of the line when it came to setting up good fights."
“I believe he was pretty much being blackballed and the problems that 50 Cent is having trying to get in the game, I pretty much didn't have time for it,” Dirrell told the Flint (Michigan) Journal.
All of his celebrity from rapping would only go so far in promoting, which is to say it didn’t go far beyond the spectacle of him putting on a live performance during a “Friday Night Fights” broadcast. Jackson worked a bit with Lou DiBella, partnering on a small handful of shows and signing a couple prospects together. SMS fighters were able to appear on DiBella’s undercards.
The more expensive fighters in Jackson’s stable were no longer desirable enough to attract too many major network paydays, if any. The prospects were all too early in their development, even touted lightweight/junior welterweight Ryan Martin. The license fees for ESPN2 shows were too small to recoup expenses. And the market was already crowded with competitors who didn’t want to cede ground to the newcomer.
Showtime at the time was working primarily with Golden Boy Promotions, and now has its strongest relationship with Haymon and his increasingly huge stable of fighters taking part in his “Premier Boxing Champions” venture, which also airs on several other networks. Haymon wasn’t going to do anything to help 50 Cent. His partnerships have been with more experienced and established smaller promoters. HBO’s dates have been going to other promoters whose stables have fighters that it wants to feature.
Kirkland was able to be on HBO in December 2013, beating Glen Tapia on the undercard of a Top Rank show. And he was on the network again last month, getting knocked out cold by Canelo Alvarez on a Golden Boy Promotions show. The appearance came after SMS Promotions had signed a deal for Golden Boy to co-promote Kirkland.
Given the potential costliness that comes with promotional missteps in this sport, it’s fortunate for SMS Promotions that it has as little debt as it does. There’s no indication of how much of Jackson’s own money was sunk into it, though it can’t have been too much given how few fighters were signed and how few events were staged.
Jackson may be better off for not having tried to do more. Smart investors need to know when to let go of a losing proposition. And if SMS Promotions does emerge and succeed, not only will that defy the odds of companies that go into Chapter 11, but it’ll differ from the many, many promoters who enter boxing thinking they can be big players, only to go broke and shut down.
The next months of reorganization will be telling, but for now it appears as if 50 Cent couldn’t buck the trend.
The 10 Count
1. A couple of drug testing-related excerpts caught my eye in the aftermath of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao.
From Thomas Hauser, writing here on BoxingScene:
“In early March, USADA [the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, contracted to do drug testing for the bout] presented the Pacquiao camp with a contract that allowed the testing agency to grant a retroactive therapeutic use exemption to either fighter in the event that the fighter tested positive for a prohibited drug. That retroactive exemption could have been granted without notifying the Nevada State Athletic Commission or the opposing fighter’s camp.
“Team Pacquiao thought that was outrageous and an opportunity for Mayweather to game the system. Pacquiao refused to sign the contract. Thereafter, Mayweather and USADA agreed to mutual notification and the elimination of retroactive therapeutic use exemptions except in narrowly delineated circumstances.”
From Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports:
“Mayweather also applied for, and was given, a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for rehydration purposes after the May 1 weigh-in. He took two separate mixes. The first was a mixture of 250 ml of saline and multi-vitamins. The second was a 500 ml mixture of saline and Vitamin C. He was urine tested both before and after taking the solutions. Nevada rules permit the mixes that Mayweather took, but because USADA was overseeing the testing he applied for and was granted the TUE for them.”
2. A handful of thoughts:
No testing for performance-enhancing drugs should allow a therapeutic-use exemption, or TUE, to be granted after the fact except in extremely limited circumstances. I am reminded of how Lance Armstrong received a TUE after a positive test thanks to a claim that he was taking a substance for saddle sores. Of course that excuse wasn’t true.
Any TUE should be for a legit medical reason, fully vetted and with the opponent informed. It’s shady that USADA could potentially have granted someone with a TUE without the commission or the other fighter’s camp aware of this. It’s particularly troublesome as the Nevada Athletic Commission voted in February 2014 to ban any TUEs for testosterone replacement therapy.
I wonder how many past USADA boxing contracts had this kind of clause, and I shake my head at the agency potentially compromising its mission and standards for the sake of business. The agency’s website lists only a few instances in which it’ll retroactively approve a TUE application. That’s for when it’s overseeing testing in other sports, though.
These blurbs also bring to mind a pair of articles that swirled around a handful of years ago.
Gabriel Montoya, then of Maxboxing, says he had first heard a rumor that USADA contracts allowed for a boxer to fight despite a positive test, and he spoke with the Nevada commission's executive director about it. He says he later heard a rumor that Mayweather had on three occasions tested positive for a banned substance, never contacted the commission about it but nevertheless subsequently received a letter from a Golden Boy Promotions attorney. The letter demanded that Montoya "cease reporting or spreading these false allegations" about Mayweather having three positive tests and receiving exemptions due to inadvertent use thanks to the terms of a Golden Boy/USADA agreement.
Montoya responded that he “made no allegations against Golden Boy” but rather “asked questions based on things that I’ve been told by third parties (which is what a journalist is supposed to do).”
Hauser went on to note these rumors in an article and tied them into the defamation lawsuit Pacquiao had filed against Mayweather, saying the settlement of the case came a bit after Pacquiao’s team sought drug-testing documents from three of Mayweather’s fights.
It must be said that these rumors were neither proven nor disproven.
As for the saline mixes, USADA rules say: “Intravenous infusions or any intravenous injection of more than 50mL per a six-hour period are prohibited except for those legitimately received in the course of hospital admissions, surgical procedures, or clinical investigations.”
Iole confirmed to BoxingScene.com that Mayweather’s mixes were via IV.
It wasn’t clear what the compelling medical reason was for Mayweather’s rehydration to come in IV form instead of in another manner.
3. You’ve got to feel for Humberto Soto. Or maybe you don’t have to, but I still do.
The former 130- and 135-pound titleholder is 35 years old now. He’s won seven in a row since getting stopped by Lucas Matthysse back in 2012, including a September 2014 decision victory over John Molina Jr.
That win against Molina should’ve landed Soto a slot on HBO last month, admittedly as the B-side against junior-welterweight prospect Frankie Gomez on the May 9 undercard to Canelo Alvarez vs. James Kirkland.
Except Gomez came in massively overweight, not only missing the initially contracted weight but also a newly agreed-upon limit that would’ve allowed the fight to go forward. While Soto did get paid some in the form of an advance from Golden Boy Promotions, he didn’t get the opportunity to perform in front of a sizable television audience.
Then he seemed to land on his feet with the announcement of a June 27 bout against Ray Beltran, a fight that would’ve been on HBO underneath the main event of Tim Bradley vs. Jessie Vargas.
Except Beltran reportedly tested positive for a banned substance following his May 1 win over Takahiro Ao. The positive test was reported last week, though the actual substance hasn’t yet been released through official channels. Infamous former performance-enhancing-drug distributor Victor Conte, who now speaks out in favor of clean sports, tweeted that it was the steroid stanozolol, also known as Winstrol. Anonymous sources told a pair of a BoxingScene reporters the same thing.
A report on this website, citing anonymous sources, said that “there is conflicting information as to the exact substance Beltran tested positive for.” Given that Beltran came in overweight against Ao, I wonder if the substance was being used for diuretic purposes.
No matter what, this means another fight is off for Soto, though there’s a possibility that another opponent could step in against him.
4. Speaking of Frankie Gomez, it was interesting to hear trainer Freddie Roach blame himself for Gomez failing to miss weight, pointing in part to the consequences of training so many fighters.
“I’ve been spread so thin lately,” Roach told Luis Sandoval of FightHype.com, detailing how he was in Northern California with junior welterweight prospect Jose Ramirez while assistant Marvin Somodio was working with junior middleweight Glen Tapia.
Never mind that Roach’s stable also includes guys like Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Ruslan Provodnikov and many others, all with their own needs, schedules, and even desired locations.
“He [Gomez] was supposed to take his strength coach with him, but that didn't happen,” Roach told Sandoval. “He was there with nobody to help him make weight and so forth, and that was my fault."
Roach undercut that point by noting that Gomez “had that long layoff between fights and put on too much weight.” Gomez hadn’t fought since July 2014. He told
The trainer is ultimately in charge, but the fighter needs to take responsibility as well, and the manager needs to help work with everyone to coordinate things.
5. Some boxers just can’t take complete responsibility for their own shortcomings. We tend to see that with fighters who change trainers again and again.
You can add Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to that list. Chavez, whose lack of dedication to training has been well chronicled, bit off more than he could chew when he fought Andrzej Fonfara in April. Even though the fight was at a contractual catch-weight of 172 pounds, Fonfara was a light heavyweight who was still too big and more importantly too good for Chavez, who quit on his stool and then said he would’ve done better had the catch-weight been even lower.
Chavez hired Freddie Roach in 2010, stopped working with him, then ultimately wound up with Joe Goossen for the Fonfara fight. Now it looks like Chavez is parting with Goossen and heading to Robert Garcia.
“Chavez Jr. was looking for a good trainer whose fighters often miss weight,” tweeted Adam Abramowitz of the Saturday Night Boxing blog. “He found his man.”
Garcia’s done some good work with fighters before, but he’s also had multiple guys come in overweight on the scales. Maybe Chavez and Garcia will work better together than the fighter did with his prior trainers.
But there’s one common denominator to this story, and it’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
6. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s next fight will be on July 18 against someone named Marcos Reyes, a 27-year-old fighter who is 33-2 with 24 KOs.
Of course, Chavez isn’t going in against a legit super middleweight. For most of Reyes’ career, he has been at or around junior middleweight and middleweight. His last appearance had him at a little more than 165 pounds against the shell of former fringe 154- and 160-pound contender David Lopez. Reyes won a unanimous decision, but BoxRec indicates that Lopez knocked him down.
The fight is scheduled for July 18. Chavez Jr. announced the fight as being shown by Showtime. If that’s the case, I hope it merely opens up the broadcast.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: Former lightweight titleholder Paul Spadafora is facing a criminal complaint accusing him of taking his brother’s Supplemental Security Income card, according to Pittsburgh television station WTAE.
The alleged incident occurred on April 25, but the misdemeanor theft summons was filed late last month, according to the report, even while it appears as if Spadafora’s brother is now recanting his story.
“Police reported that when they went to the home, Spadafora denied having the card and used obscenities while ordering them off the porch,” the article said. “The alleged victim … and other relatives of Spadafora who were reached by Pittsburgh's Action News 4 on Tuesday said the charges in the complaint were not true.”
Spadafora’s history of legal issues has been chronicled before. The most serious case led to him serving two years in jail for the non-fatal shooting of his girlfriend. He’s now 39, suffered his first career defeat when he lost a majority decision to Johan Perez at junior welterweight in November 2013. A victory over Hector Velazquez in July 2014 moved Spadafora’s record to 49-1-1 with 19 KOs.
8. Boxers Behaving Badly, part two: Former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor was already in serious trouble for two cases and now is facing a criminal charge for a third.
Authorities in Arkansas have charged Taylor, 36, with one felony count of second-degree battery for allegedly assaulting another man at a rehabilitation center, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Taylor has a court date set for June 23 to face trial in a case that stemmed from an incident in which he is accused of shooting and wounding his cousin during a confrontation at Taylor’s home.
He’s also facing charges from January, when he was arrested following an incident at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Little Rock in which he is accused of pointing his gun at a woman and her kids and shooting at their father after a child dropped Taylor’s world title. That case has a hearing scheduled for August, according to online court records.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly, part three: Loris Stecca — a former 122-pound titleholder from Italy — has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for attempted murder for stabbing a female business partner in December 2013, according to newspaper Il Resto Del Carligno.
Stecca, 55, fought between 1980 and 1988, going 55-2-2 with 37 KOs. He won a world title in February 1984, losing it three months later in his first defense.
10. Boxing photographer Al Bello had one of the best pictures I’ve ever seen of what a boxer’s face looks like in the moment a person gets punched in the chin.
Here’s his shot of Chris Algieri as Amir Khan lands a flush right uppercut from in close:
Boxers get hit in the face scores of times each bout, for dozens of fights in their career, never mind during the thousands of rounds of sparring they put in during training camp.
And somehow the boxers are still better looking than us boxing writers.
Present company excluded, of course…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s 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]