By Jake Donovan
Whatever talks still exist (if any at all) between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin will have to take a back seat for another battle involving the red-headed boxing superstar from Mexico, one that’s been five years in the making.
The reigning lineal middleweight champion is expected in court Monday morning for his long-delayed legal battle with All-Star Boxing, Inc., the Flordia-based promotional outfit who have been waiting since 2011 for its chance to have its say in front of a judge and jury. The oft-delayed case will finally begin Monday morning at Dade County Court House, in Miami, Florida.
Day one will feature jury selection for the upcoming trial, in which All-Star Boxing has alleged breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Alvarez, as well as tortious interference against Golden Boy Promotions.
Opening statements and first witnesses to be called shortly after jury selection.
The case stems from charges filed in January ’11 by All-Star Boxing’s Felix ‘Tutico’ Zabala Jr., through his legal team, shortly before Alvarez was due to face Matthew Hatton for a vacant super welterweight title. The timing of the lawsuit initially suggested to those on the outside looking in that Zabala was just looking for a quick payoff and using the timing of Alvarez’ first title fight as means to maximize exposure.
As time moved on and the case remained alive despite years of desperate attempts made by Alvarez and Golden Boy’s legal team to delay in hopes of ultimately dismissing, it became clear that All-Star Boxing had no intention of folding its hand.
“All we’ve ever wanted is what’s right,” Zabala Jr. told BoxingScene.com. “We’ve given (Golden Boy Promotions) every chance to do the fair thing here. When that didn’t happen, we had to demand our day in court.”
That day has finally arrived, with Alvarez – who’d previously gain a delay in citing proper time needed to train for an upcoming fight – now forced to take a stroll through memory lane.
“It's been very frustrating seeing this case delayed over the years,” Alejandro Brito, lead counsel for All-Star Boxing admitted to BoxingScene.com of the five-year wait. “We’d have a date, only to have to wait because he was in training for a fight, then planning for a next fight.
“Now that he doesn’t have a fight coming up, we are confident of there not being any more delays (in the case).”
Alvarez was first signed by All-Star Boxing in September ’08, at age 18 and already three years into his pro career. The two sides were introduced by Rafael Mendoza, Alvarez’ manager who was also a promoter in Mexico at the time. Ironically, Alvarez’ first fight under a reported four-year contract with All-Star Boxing came on a show promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, when he defeated Larry Mosley in Oct. ’08.
The moment also served as Alvarez’ stateside debut and his first appearance on U.S. television, with the bout airing live from California on Telefutura (now UniMas), having fought exclusively in his native Mexico prior to that point. Two months later, the red-headed boxer appeared on a show in Florida as part of a card televised on Telemundo, with whom Felix ‘Tutico’ Zabala Jr., head of All-Star Boxing, has enjoyed a lengthy relationship.
In all, Alvarez fought under the All-Star Boxing banner for nine fights, all coming in a span of just over 13 months. The final fight in which All-Star Boxing remained a part of Alvarez’ career came in the boxer’s 12-round points win over Lanardo Tyner in Dec. ’09.
It was that point when All-Star Boxing – which claims to have invested more than $180,000 into Alvarez’ career over the course of those nine bouts – believes Golden Boy entered the picture and according to previous court documents, “induced Alvarez to breach his agreement and enter a separate multi-year promotional contract for the promotion of Alvarez’ future fights.”
All of Alvarez’ bouts from that point onward - beginning with a 3rd round knockout of Brian Camechis in March ’10 – involved Golden Boy Promotions in some capacity or another. Alvarez fought five times on the year, including two appearances on HBO Pay-Per-View undercards and by year’s end his debut on HBO Latino.
All-Star Boxing formally filed a lawsuit in Jan. ’11, by which point Alvarez was being steered towards his first title fight, challenging Matthew Hatton for a vacant 154 lb. title. The lawsuit was filed in an attempt to block the fight and have Alvarez “return home” but the young superstar hasn’t missed a beat in his career.
He went on to beat Hatton and has since become one of the most popular fighters from Mexico in recent history. His demand for extended training camps and subsequent lengthy recovery periods has found a sympathetic ear inside the courtroom, with a new hearing date surfacing seemingly every year only to always get delayed.
As frustrating as has been the drawn-out process, there is an upside to the legal battle being carried out this long. The more that Alvarez and fights and the better his events perform, the more the compensatory damages increase as a result.
In fact, it could prove more harmful that Golden Boy has touted the 25-year old as the new face of boxing, in the wake of the recent ring retirements of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. It was a statement that the company made in the wake of Alvarez’ 12-round win over Miguel Cotto to capture the World middleweight championship last November.
The event performed well at the box-office, drawing a sizable crowd to the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, as well as moving 900,000 units on Pay-Per-View – good for $58 million in gross sales.
His star power was insisted to be as strong as ever for his most recent feat, a 6th round stoppage of Amir Khan earlier this month at the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The event sold more than 13,000 tickets, registering $7.4 million at the box office, while selling – according to research within BoxingScene.com’s means – 460,000 PPV units, although event handlers insist – but have yet to prove – the number is closer to 600,000 buys.
Either way, the May 7 event grossed - between PPV, box office, sponsorship and international TV rights – somewhere in the vicinity of $50 million.
The feat could be Alvarez’ last high note for a while. The win marked the first successful defense of his title, though with the mandate of having to agree to terms to a showdown with Golovkin, a unified, unbeaten titlist who also happens to be his mandatory contender.
The World Boxing Council – whose alphabet belt Alvarez held in addition to the lineal crown – ordered that talks must be wrapped up by May 24 or else be subject to a purse bid. Alvarez and Golden Boy founder Oscar de la Hoya instead released a joint statement, vilifying the WBC’s “artificial deadline” as the boxer chose to hand over the title with Golovkin, although insisting that his team still had marching orders to negotiate a title fight, just at its leisure rather than with a proverbial gun to their head.
Alvarez previously served as a super welterweight titlist, the reign lasting 2 ½ years and also including his having unified two titles at the weight. The run came to a close in Sept. ’13, losing a 12-round decision to Maywether in what served at the time as the most lucrative event in boxing history, both at the live gate and in the PPV market.
Aside from Alvarez suffering the lone loss of his career, the financial aspect of the show served as one of the last great moments for Golden Boy Promotions in previous form.
The California-based company since underwent a major transformation, including the forced resignation of longtime CEO Richard Schaefer in 2014, a move that led to several other firings and departures. A bitter split with former business partner, boxing adviser Al Haymon resulted in Golden Boy losing access to more than 50 fighters previously believed to be under promotional contract.
The extent of Schaefer’s influence – if any at all – in bringing Alvarez to Golden Boy Promotions should have little bearing on this case, at least on the surface.
With the forced facelift, Golden Boy changed the way it conducted business. Included among its revisions was bringing the bulk of its remaining fighters from Showtime back to HBO, chief among them Alvarez, who inked a long-term deal with the American cable giant in Sept. ‘14.
His first fight back on HBO came last May, one week after watching Mayweather and Pacquiao establish financial benchmarks in the sport that will likely never be broken at least in this lifetime. That hasn’t deterred Alvarez from strengthening his own star brand.
Seven days after Mayweather-Pacquaio, the 25-year old boxing superstar from Guadalajara enjoyed a triumphant HBO return with a 3rd round knockout of James Kirkland. The fight drew 30,000 fans at Minute Maid Park in Houston, as well as more than 2.1 million home viewers on HBO, good for the most viewed cable TV fight in nearly nine years.
His two encore performances helped restore hope in the PPV market in the wake of Mayweather-Pacquiao, with his headlining acts versus Cotto and Khan performing better than any other a la carte event since records were stampeded last May.
In the aftermath of the Cotto win came talks of reclaiming the two most popular boxing dates as it relates to Mexican holiday. Alvarez reclaimed Cinco de Mayo with the Khan win coming two days afterward.
The industry-wide hope was that Mexico’s Independence Day would be celebrated – in a boxing sense – with Alvarez-Golovkin taking place in front of 100,000 fans at AT&T Stadium, the home of the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, TX.
Wherever talks currently stand can be greatly impacted by this case, as can his long-term deal with HBO, which was inked while under contract with Golden Boy Promotions.
Should a judge rule in favor of All-Star Boxing, such contracts with both the network and Golden Boy would become null and void.
“There would be some discussion as it relates to continuing harm,” Brito explains, though noting that HBO is not (yet) on the hook.
For now, the battle remains with Alvarez and Golden Boy and – for the first time since the initial filing – with All-Star Boxing finally ready to have its day in court. The end goal for “the other side” isn’t to simply collect a check and move on as if nothing ever happened.
“We want our fighter back; that’s the bottom line here,” Zabala Jr. explicitly states. “Far too often in boxing, everyone thinks you can just throw money at a problem and make it go away. We’re not in this case looking for a handout or attempting a shakedown.
“We want to set a precedent here, a lesson to be learned that you have to honor your contract once you enter a legally binding agreement. To work all your life to find that one boxer you know is the next superstar and then to just have him stolen away from you – it’s wrong. We’ve demanded our day in court a long time ago, and now that day is finally here.”
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2