Mahmoud Charr is ready for his next fight.
This one will take place in a courtroom, as the veteran heavyweight has filed a four-count complaint against Hall of Fame promoter Don King, both individually and against his Don King Productions (DKP) promotional company, as well as Epic Sports—Charr’s co-promoter through a partnership with DKP—and five yet-to-be-named defendants. Charr alleges tortious interference, civil conspiracy and two counts of breach of contract in his case filed with the United States District Court in the Southern District of Florida on Tuesday.
Charr demands judgement in excess of $4,575,000 of the four aforementioned charges, in addition to recovery of “attorney’s fees, costs, and interest, in addition to any other relief the Court deems proper” according to the complaint, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com.
The matter from Charr’s canceled heavyweight fight with Trevor Bryan, to have taken place January 30 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The bout never took place, with Charr having been stripped of his secondary version of the WBA heavyweight title as a result of the fallout. Charr was due to make $1,500,000 for the fight, per the terms of a purse bid won by Don King Productions and which he now seeks to recover “in addition to any other relief the court seems proper.”
Charr never defended his version of the heavyweight title due to a number of circumstances, the extent of which was the result of two years’ worth of delays surrounding his ordered fight with Bryan who held an interim title at the time. The most extreme incident took place in the weeks and days leading to his canceled January 30 fight with Bryan which Charr was denied due to a failure on the part of DKP to secure a travel visa (per WBA purse bid rules), prompting the WBA to declare the title vacant and which was made available for Bryan’s bout with late replacement Bermane Stiverne.
Bryan went on to win the fight by eleventh-round stoppage, upgrading from WBA interim titlist to its secondary titleholder. Anthony Joshua holds the WBA “Super” heavyweight title. Charr was downgraded to “Champion in Recess” and has yet to receive the opportunity to challenge Bryan for his old title.
Charr—a Syrian heavyweight born in Lebanon but who now fights out of Germany—initially won the belt in a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over Alexander Ustinov in November 2017. In more than three years that followed came at least two canceled bouts, including one with Fres Oquendo that was scheduled for September 29, 2018.
The fight was canceled after a drug testing sample provided by Charr came back positive for banned substances epitrenbolone and drostanolone. Charr—who was stripped of the title in November 2018—requested the testing of his “B” sample, which actually led to his reinstatement due to a fault in testing procedures. Charr and his team successfully argued that they were never notified of when the “B” sample would be opened and tested, a process for which the offending party holds the right to be present.
The matter led to the reinstatement of his title status in January 2019, with the order soon thereafter to face Bryan—thus the beginning stages of a mess still in need of resolution more than two-and-a-half years later.
As outlined in the two counts of Breach of Contract (“Promotional Agreement” and “Purse Bid Agreement”), a title consolidation bout was initially ordered on March 6, 2019, as noted in one of eleven supporting exhibits included in the complaint. The matter was scheduled for a purse bid hearing on May 28, 2019.
Days before the purse bid, Charr entered a promotional agreement with King and Epic Sports, with contract terms guaranteeing the Syrian heavyweight a minimum of $750,000 per fight. The contract also called also stated that “DKP would bid “at least $1,000,000 at the May 28, 2019 purse bid for the Charr/Bryan Bout,” with 75% of the purse going to Charr and with the purse bid amount satisfying his mandatory minimum.
The complaint alleges—with documented proof submitted as evidence—that an agreement between Charr, King and Epic prompted the cancellation of said purse bid. Charr insists that he never agreed to such a development, nor was he provided with a Bout Contract to sign and submit to the WBA. “Charr did not consent to the cancellation nor learn that DKP and Epic failed to submit the requisite paperwork, including the Bout Contract, until after the bid was cancelled,” notes Jared Lopez of Black Srebnick, P.A., co-counsel for Charr along with Patrick English of Dines and English LLC. “
King won the rescheduled purse bid hearing last March 2, submitting a whopping $2,000,000 to retain the rights to the fight. From that amount, Charr was entitled to 75% or $1,500,000, with the remaining 25% ($500,000) to go to Bryan. Per WBA purse bid terms, King was also on the hook to secure travel visas for all key parties in need, along with full travel accommodations for Charr and approved team members.
The complaint alleges that King sought a loophole by providing a standard DKP Bout Agreement in lieu of the required WBA Bout Contract for its sanctioned fights. The DKP Bout Agreement does not leave the promoter solely responsible for matters such as securing travel visas for boxers scheduled for said shows.
Charr—a practicing Muslim of Syrian heritage—was stuck in Germany due to Executive Order 13780, in which travel to the U.S. was banned to nationals of more than a dozen countries, including Syria. The modified Executive Order was loosely known as the “Trump Travel Ban”, first enforced by then-President Donald Trump in 2017. King is a longtime friend and supporter of Trump, and assured Charr and his team that he would use his influences to secure an exception that would allow the boxer to travel to the U.S. in time to proceed with the long overdue title defense.
That never took place, despite multiple inquiries placed by English as well as Erol Ceylan, Charr’s regional promoter and international manager. The last such effort for contact came on January 26, when Charr’s counsel informed Carl Lewis, head counsel for DKP that Charr was unable to travel from Germany and move forward with the fight due to DKP’s refusal to send a Bout Contract as proof of a fight taking place which would have allowed Charr to secure a P-1 travel visa.
It is further alleged in the complaint under the Tortious Interference count that King and DKP “intentionally and unjustifiably interfered with Charr’s business relationship with the WBA by coercing Charr into signing the noncompliant DKP Bout Contract, which violated WBA rules and contained terms prohibited by the Muhammad Ali Act, 15 U.S.C. 6307b(b. DKP and King further intentionally and unjustifiably interfered with Charr’s business relationship with the WBA by refusing to submit the executed DKP Bout Contract to the WBA and withholding a copy of the contract from Charr, despite his requests, to prevent Charr from obtaining his P-1 Visa and traveling to the United States to participate in the Charr/Bryan Bout.
“DKP and King intentionally and unjustifiably interfered with Charr’s business relationship with the WBA by exerting undue influence over the WBA after Charr was prevented from defending his title by causing the WBA to improperly strip Charr of his title as the reigning Regular Heavyweight Champion. As a result of King and DKP’s unlawful interference, the WBA cancelled the rescheduled Charr/Bryan Bout causing Charr to sustain damages including, but not limited to, $1.5 million in lost income that King and DKP were obligated to pay Charr for his purse in that title fight.”
The Civil Conspiracy count alleges that King and DKP operated with five yet-to-be-named parties (noted in the complaint as John Does 1-5, but to be identified through discovery should this go to trial) to “illegally exert undue influence over the WBA for the malicious purpose of persuading the WBA to strip Charr of his WBA Regular Heavyweight Champion title without cause and in violation of WBA rules.” It was through this action, the complaint alleges, that led to Charr being stripped of his title and to the benefit of DKP and Bryan, who was provided with the opportunity to fight for and win the belt.
Charr has since taken a stay-busy fight at home, scoring a second-round knockout of previously unbeaten Christopher Lovejoy this past May 15 in Hamburg, Germany. Fittingly, King tried to block that fight as well.
Lovejoy was previously under contract with DKP and also due to have fought on the January 30 show in Florida. Lovejoy contended that he never had a contract in place obligating him to the January date, and had since declared free agent status in the ensuing months. King’s office contended that Lovejoy was still under contract, to the point where event promoters in Germany had opponents on standby had the legal matter managed to go the distance.
The fight ultimately proceeded as scheduled, marking Charr’s first ring appearance since November 2017. The next in-ring appearance for Charr isn’t immediately known, though he has clear direction of his next fight, for which he is prepared to go the distance.
Charr has demanded a trial by jury for all four counts named in the aforementioned complaint.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox