By Rick Reeno
Since our earlier update regarding ESPN's March 26 doubleheader, multiple promoters have contacted BoxingScene.com in defense of Doug Loughrey, the boxing program director for ESPN. As reported earlier, the championship doubleheader featuring Cory Spinks vs. Cornelius Bundrage and Steve Cunningham vs. Matt Godfrey, was postponed due to a contractual dispute between ESPN and the event promoter Don King. It's being claimed that Loughrey made numerous "last minute" changes to what King had assumed were going to be the terms for the network to carry the show.
Several promoters disagree with King's side of the story. From what several promoters claim, King tried to change the unchangeable. He tried to change the terms within ESPN's standard agreement outlining several items like rights, sponsorships, money, etc.
"When I first heard King was going to do a show with ESPN, I spoke on the phone with three or four other promoters and we said 'no way is this show going to happen' because Don is old school and he's not going to sign an ESPN standard agreement. He thought it would be different for him because he's Don King and it wasn't, and that's ultimately what happened here. [Explaining the standard agreement] it basically gives you no rights. They give you certain foreign territories if you ask for them. They keep the copyrights. They take the sponsorships. It's the reason why people don't do a lot of shows on there. King knew that. It's not like King hasn't had the fighters to do shows on ESPN. There is a reason why King never wanted to do them. Why would it change here? - said promoter Lou DiBella to BoxingScene.com.
"When it was first announced, people sort of knew King would never sign the standard agreement. I don't think you can blame Loughrey on this one. I believe it had to do with rights. The difference between ESPN paying a little and a lot - is still sh*t money. They still pay sh*t either way. I don't believe it broke over money. If anything it would break up over the rights."
Leon Margules of Warriors Boxing was another promoter who went on the record in defense of Loughrey.
"ESPN has been using the same contract for years and they never negotiate a different deal. King should have know what their contracts were and that's they never did business. Doug works for a huge corporation and they do business a certain way and the rest of us sign standard contracts as they are. They are standard contracts. King knew that going in. What's done is done but everyone knows what an ESPN contract looks like. It's only the money that changes occasional. And occasional we might get a territory for a short window. It's standard and that's the way they do it and Don knew that. It's not fair to blame Doug. Doug didn't do anything wrong but give him the standard contract that everyone else signs," Margules said.
King spoke with BoxingScene.com on Wednesday night. The veteran promoter claims he was previously unaware of the terms contained in ESPN's standard agreement. He says Loughrey was willing to budge on some of the issues having to do with the the rights, or at least promised he would. In his possession, King has several emails where Loughrey, in response to King's contractual demands, said there wouldn't be any problems. But there were problems. King did not receive ESPN's revised contract until Tuesday afternoon.
"Loughrey told told me [on March 9] I would get a contract in 24 hours. Then he said he needed 48 hours. Then Friday [March 12] was the drop dead date. I sent him a message on Friday and said we didn't have a contract and we would go our separate ways. He responded back and asked for me to give him until Monday. Then we didn't get anything on Monday. We finally got a contract from them on Tuesday afternoon at 3 or 4pm and by that time it was too late. I had already told everyone it was off," King told BoxingScene.com.
"These guys on the sidelines don't have the craziness to invest over $200,000 on a show like this [ESPN was paying $50,000 for the show]. They would have never invested in their fighters like that. This was not a Friday Night Fights. This was a special feature attraction. What they accept is not what I accept. That's what negotiations are. Either you agree or you don't agree. And that's why they are who they are, and that's why I'm Don King. That's why they are piling up on me because they don't understand why I have the resiliency to stand up to this. If I agreed to everything that was given to me, I would still be sitting on the stoop."
According to King, the breaking point took place when ESPN placed in a contract clause demanding a "right of first refusal/right to match" for both fights.
"I said forget about the money, I'm not trying to change their rules [on the money]. I told them I'll pay out of my own pocket just to get the fights on. We usually maintain worldwide rights but we know their policies. I gave them a two year window to broadcast to all of their territories. But they wanted a right of first refusal on the winner and the right to match and they also wanted that on the fighter's next fight. I don't give that to HBO and I don't give that to Showtime. It's not about me trying to change things but I had to maintain the rights to my fighters. I had an obligation to do the fights and to deliver the fights to them. And I was paying out of my pockets and not out of ESPN's pockets, but that's as far as I can go," King said.