The fallout of an intriguing junior welterweight title bout has spawned boxing’s latest social media spat—and a window into the sport’s arcane, and often frustrating, business politics.

Earlier this week, Jose Ramirez, the former unified 140-pound titilist from Avenal, California, told ESPN that he had turned down a mandated title shot against World Boxing Council champion Regis Prograis.

The reason? The WBC set the purse split at 65-35 in favor of the champion, Prograis. But Ramirez objected to the terms of that payout, calling it unfair given his championship pedigree and profile as a legitimate draw in the Central California region, where he has routinely drawn 15,000 spectators to his fights.

The same, Ramirez and his team argued, cannot be said of Prograis, who grew up in New Orleans but lives in Houston. The WBC normally sets the purse split for mandated title fights at 75-25 when there is an incumbent champion, but Ramirez’s promoter, Top Rank, managed to close the gap by successfully lobbying for a 65-35 split. Alas, it was not enough. While Ramirez wanted an even 50-50 split he was willing to work with a 40% share—but no more than that. An additional 5%, in other words, was a bridge too far.

Complicating the business aspect of the kerfuffle is the fact that Top Rank does not work with Prograis’ promoter, Probellum, in essence making a purse bid the only available way to make a Prograis-Ramirez bout since negotiations between the two sides would be a nonstarter.

Earlier this year, after the US Department of Treasury placed sanctions on alleged Irish cartel boss Daniel Kinahan and his associates, Top Rank head Bob Arum declared that his company would not do business with any entities that had ties with Kinahan, including Arum said, Probellum, the upstart company led by industry fixture Richard Schaefer. Probellum has repeatedly denied that Kinahan has anything to do with their operations and have even sued a British competitor, Boxxer, for defamation, for suggesting Kinahan was backing their business. There is a significant discrepancy, moreover, in the size and influence of the two companies. Top Rank, which was founded in the early '70s, boasts an exclusive and plummy output deal with ESPN to showcase its talent, Probellum does not have a comparable relationship with a major US broadcaster.

Ever since the ESPN story went up on Monday, Ramirez has scrambled to defend accusations that he “ducked” Prograis, a notion that Ramirez has had to deal with in the past, particularly from 2018-2019, when their names were first linked. Ramirez’s longtime manager, Rick Mirigian, has been more than willing to take naysayers to task, on Twitter and on Instagram, launching into multiple screeds to defend his charge’s decision to pull out of the title bout with Prograis.

At the heart of Mirigian’s argument is that the WBC purse split is not in line with the market reality as established by his charge and that Prograis, who Mirigian continually refers to as a talented but under-publicized fighter, will wind up making less in his next fight by fighting a contender in the WBC rankings who does not generate the kind of revenue that Ramirez does.

“Regis does not & has never came close to what Ramirez earns, his drawing power to over 130,000 people that have attended his 12 arena fights, his endorsements, network backed promoter, equity built in him & brings a resume that includes an Olympian moniker, World Champion with multiple defenses, Unified World Champion & beaten former world champions, etc.,” Mirigian wrote in an Instagram post.

“There is NO ONE that Regis can fight to come close to what he would make with Ramirez,” Mirigian continued. “…Regis should have sent Ramirez a THANK YOU card to do a 50/50 split let alone what Ramirez was willing to do and give him a higher split still & exposure from a major network. Regis will make less then half of what he would have with Ramirez against the available guys now. Ramirez will make 2.5 times what Regis will make fighting as a Champion. Ramirez was willing to take a massive pay cut to fight but that split giving Regis DOUBLE what Ramirez would get was just comical.”

On Tuesday, Prograis tweeted that if the shoe was on the other foot—that is, if Ramirez was the champion and Prograis was the challenger—he would have agreed to the terms laid out by the WBC. That sparked a pointed response from Mirigian, who said that while Ramirez enjoys the marketing boost from routinely appearing on a major network like ESPN, Prograis suffers from a lack of exposure. On the same day, both Ramirez and Prograis had an impromptu dialogue about their redlined fight on the Instagram Live feed of veteran videographer Elie Seckbach. Both fighters expressed frustration with the business side of the sport.

“Regis, your [sic] a marketable prize fighter,” Mirigian wrote. “Tell me how fighting a nobody for $450K next with no network in front of 1500 people is better then around $1.6-$2M on a massive network with 15,000 people watching live. Your [sic] supposed to live for that moment and exposure, it's everything.”

Mirigian added, “And respectfully you would agree to that split because you don't have options or have been in position to ask for a different split or scenario. Not your fault by any means but putting yourself in that position is the business part of boxing and those moves make the difference.”

Ramirez is now scheduled to return to the ring March 25 in Fresno, California, possibly against former lightweight titlist Richard Commey. Per the WBC rankings, the next fighter in line to face Prograis is Teofimo Lopez, but that fight is unlikely to happen for the same reasons as Ramirez: Lopez is backed by Top Rank and, according to Mirigian, his team would also likely object to the purse split.  

“Both Regis and Jose will have non elite fights next,” Mirigian wrote in another tweet. “My point is Regis stood to make the most with Ramirez whereas Ramirez will make 3-4 times more in this same scenario without Regis. Jose tried to fight for less against Regis and that's a fact.”

Mirigian pointed out that Prograis would have never become champion last month against Jose Zepeda, another Mirigian client, had Ramirez not pulled out of it to begin with. Originally, Ramirez and Zepeda were set to fight for the vacant WBC 140-pound belt, but Ramirez decided to back out because he was getting married during the same period. Prograis was next in line and he ended up stopping Zepeda in the 11th round.

Coming to Prograis’ aid on Twitter was his manager, Sam Katkovski, who pushed back on Mirigian’s various claims about trying to work out a fairer deal and “making an offer.”  

“Zero attempt was done to try and strike a deal,” Katkovski wrote. “If Ramirez tried and wanted it, why not call our side? You simple [sic] pivoted to an easier fight, there is no need for 1000 reasons/excuses. Simply you passed up a title opportunity. Facts.”

Responded Mirigian, “Like I said, we made you an offer, RAMIREZ tried and offered a fair split to get it done and that's not passing, it's understood the two promoters don't engage but YOU and your side could have made an offer also. You can't find a better deal or situation[.] You know that.”

Katkovski retorted by saying Mirigian never reached out directly but that he simply went to the WBC to change the terms of the purse split, from 75-25 to 65-35.

“WHAT OFFER?!?” Katkovski wrote. “A letter to WBC to change purse split (without letting us know), is not considered an offer. And I personally tried calling you twice, but got your voicemail. Stop with the misrepresentation of facts.”

"The offer was there," Mirigan responded. "The split was a clear offer with full binding intent to fight. Call you in the morning..."