A pair of upstart promotional companies are in the midst of a legal battle.
BoxingScene.com has learned that Probellum and company co-founders Richard Schaefer and Ali Shams Pour have filed a defamation lawsuit against BOXXER and promoter Ben Shalom, who operates as CEO and director of the UK-based outfit. The initial filing was placed June 21 in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, citing libel and slander in seeking unspecified damages.
Schaefer, Pour and Probellum Holdings Limited are listed as the lawsuit’s claimants, all represented by Reed Smith LLP—an international law firm whose main headquarters are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but with locations throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. Co-defendants Shalom and BOXXER Limited are represented by Simons Muirhead and Burton LLP, a London-based ethical law firm.
The lawsuit comes as Probellum’s brand and public perception have come under fire in recent months. Specific to this case, the company has fired back at BOXXER upon the discovery that the fellow rookie promotional outfit distributed two Code of Ethics letters to prominent trainers, managers and promoters requiring each participant and the fighters that they worked with to deny working in any capacity with Probellum or the now-defunct managerial conglomerate MTK Global in order to work with BOXXER and Sky Sports.
Both companies are named in the second of three conditions under which participants are required to meet in entering said agreement. The letters do not mention Kinahan by name, though his alleged ties to both companies were reported at length in the wake of sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of Treasury against the controversial figure and several members of a group identified by international authorities as the Kinahan Organized Crime Group on April 11.
The U.S. Treasury Department offered up to a $5,000,000 reward for information leading to the financial disruption of the KOCG and all business ties, or the arrest and/or conviction of Kinahan, his younger brother Christy Sr. and father Christy Sr. The matter quickly grew into an international investigation, with Ireland, the U.K., Spain and even the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with any of the aforementioned nations—joining the U.S. in applying pressure on Kinahan and any affiliated business.
Neither Probellum nor MTK Global were named in the U.S. sanctions as companies directly tied to Kinahan and his alleged crime organization. However, there existed industry-wide speculation of Kinahan’s—or at least MTK’s—direct involvement with Probellum since its inception last September. The company went on a massive signing spree, with most of its fighters already fighting under the MTK banner. Probellum has vigorously denied any link with Kinahan and BoxingScene.com understands that the US Treasury officers have confirmed that the business and its employees were never part of their investigations.
Promotional outfits such as BOXXER and Top Rank—the current content providers to Sky Sports—have attempted to draw direct links between Probellum and Kinahan, with Top Rank founder and chairman Bob Arum openly claiming that Kinahan “100 percent” still runs Probellum and MTK.
The comment did not go unchecked. BoxingScene.com has learned that a legal notice was sent to Arum by Probellum demanding the Las Vegas-based promoter avoid further such accusations to avoid litigation.
Prior to the imposed sanctions, Sky Sports drew criticism for previously working with numerous fighters and companies alleged to have direct ties to Kinahan. Increased pressure came in the wake of a BBC Panorama ‘Boxing and the Mob’ documentary was released last February, focusing on Kinahan’s alarming influence in the sport including his prior relationship with lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and several other high-profile boxers.
BOXXER entered an exclusive deal with Sky Sports upon its official launch last September, announcing a number of signed fighters to be showcased on the platform. It was learned that fighters who had ties to MTK were instructed—or at least encouraged—to not mention the company by name during the launch.
The discovery of the Code of Ethics letters was reported by several outlets—including BoxingScene.com—earlier this month, though BoxingScene.com has since learned the letter was in circulation since at least May.
Probellum denied any direct ties to Kinahan in an April 13 press release, two days after the sanctions were imposed. “Top Rank is a competitor and since Probellum’s inception, Top Rank has never worked directly with us,” Probellum revealed. “Any suggestions that
Daniel Kinahan is a shareholder or owner of Probellum are false and defamatory.”
A lengthier legal battle is in store for Shalom and BOXXER, given its past and perhaps even current actions.