According to allegations contained within lawsuit documents that were recently filed in the New York State Supreme Court, Westchester County, promoter Joe DeGuardia repeatedly made “inappropriate comments” about the appearance of a former female employee and once tried to get her to sub-in for a ring girl on one of his cards, leading to an episode in which the promoter allegedly groped and propositioned her.
Georgene Zagarino, a former “logistics intern” for Star Boxing, the Bronx-based promotional firm founded by DeGuardia in 1992, described an environment in which the veteran promoter consistently subjected her to “unlawful sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of her gender.”
The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.com, was filed on Jan. 18. Zagarino also alleges that DeGuardia failed to compensate her for her work after promising to do so. The lawsuit does not state when exactly Zagarino stopped working for DeGuardia but indicates that she was hired by the promoter in 2015.
A phone message was left with DeGuardia’s secretary, seeking a response to the allegations. A follow-up email was also sent to DeGuardia.
In the suit, Zagarino – who describes herself as an amateur boxer who hails from a family of fighters, in a video interview in 2016 – notes several instances in which she was made to feel discriminated against. She recalled a time, in 2018, when DeGuardia allegedly issued an edict requiring all employees to wear company t-shirts, but he exempted Zagarino from this demand, telling her that “he liked the clothing she wore, such as dresses.”
In the same year, DeGuardia was alleged to have offered Zagarino to take her for a ride on his motorcycle, telling her it would be their “dirty little secret”, that is, outside the knowledge of Zagarino’s father, who, the lawsuit claims, “personally” knows DeGuardia.
Zagarino described the workplace environment on Star Boxing events as one frequently populated with strippers, ring girls, and alcohol. Zagarino’s most substantial allegation centers on one of those events, a boxing card DeGuardia promoted at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. This appears to have been the card that took place on June 7, 2019 as part of a lead-in to the induction weekend of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and featured as its main event the junior lightweight bout between Zab Judah and Cletus Seldin, which Seldin won by 11th-round technical knockout. (Judah suffered a brain bleed after this fight but recovered. He subsequently sued Seldin, claiming that Seldin benefited from a performance enhancing drug).
A day before the fight, on June 6, 2019, Zagarino claims DeGuardia requested that she come up to his hotel suite to pick up credentials. When she got there, Zagarino realized the credentials were just a pretext for something else. DeGuardia, Zagarino said, claimed that he needed a replacement ring girl that night for an event because of an incident that arose with the ring girls he had originally hired and suggested Zagarino as a stand-in. Zagarino expressed her unease with the idea, as she was “uncomfortable” wearing a revealing outfit, like a bikini, in such a setting. DeGuardia then grew “irate” and pleaded with her to at least try on one of the outfits. Zagarino relented and “fearfully went to the bathroom” to change. When she came out, she stated once more that she was not willing to be a substitute ring girl.
At this point, Zagarino claims DeGaurdia took a turn, “becoming hostile and even angrier,” and pushed her to the wall. Zagarino, in turn, tried to push herself away from DeGuardia, who then began to proposition her, telling her he planned to get a divorce from his wife. Zagarino responded that she was “engaged and had no interest” in him. “DeGuardia, however, would not take no for an answer, and insisted that Ms. Zagarino cheat on her fiancé with him before getting married because she would eventually engage in infidelity during their marriage.”
DeGuardia vouched for his discreetness and allegedly began to place his hands over Zagarino’s back and buttocks, telling her he wanted them to be “dirty” with each other. When Zagarino was able to successfully distance herself from DeGuardia, she demanded the promoter pay her for the work she put in for the past several days. DeGuardia was claimed to have responded that he would pay her $700.00 if she “woke up with him in the morning,” thus, according to the suit, subjecting “Ms. Zagarino to a quid-pro-quo arrangement.” Zagarino says she immediately left DeGuardia's suite and then, after finishing up the rest of her duties, left the hotel later that night.
Zagarino is seeking monetary damages in an amount to be determined at trial.
DeGuardia is best known for promoting heavyweight titlist Antonio Tarver, who achieved fame with his trilogy with Roy Jones Jr. and bouts with Bernard Hopkins and Glen Johnson. He currently co-promotes, with Top Rank Inc., WBO light heavyweight titleholder Joe Smith Jr. of Mastic, Long Island.