Terence Crawford has moved on from proudly fighting under the Top Rank banner to now battling with his estranged promoter.

The unbeaten three-division champion and pound-for-pound entrant has filed a six-count, multimillion-dollar complaint against the Nevada-based promotional outfit with the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nevada. Crawford—through attorneys Bryan Freedman and Hector Carbajal II—alleges two separate counts of Breach of Contract, along with one count each of Fraudulent Misrepresentation (specifying Top Rank’s failure to deliver a fight with Errol Spence and the manner in which it was promised), Negligent Misrepresentation, Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing and Tortious Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith as committed by Top Rank founder/CEO Bob Arum as well as company president Todd duBoef, Arum’s stepson.

Also included in the 23-page complaint—a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com—are extensive allegations of racial bias against Crawford, an African-American boxer and “disparate treatment of Black boxers,

including those very same Black boxers that Top Rank is contractually obligated to promote.

“Because this is boxing, a sport with a checkered history, and because Arum is now dismissed as just a grumpy old white man, Arum continues to make racist and bigoted statements and purposefully damage the reputations of Black boxers without any consequences. This is generally because the affected boxers, who are in long-term contracts with Top Rank, fear that if they speak up, they will be placed on the sideline and not given the opportunity to fight during the life of their deal, which could be 5 to 7 years.”

The development was first reported by the New York Post.

Crawford seeks upwards of $10,000,000 in compensation, including specific amounts of $4,500,000 under the first breach of contract claim and an unpaid $900,000 bonus as specified in the second breach of contract claim.

“Wherefore Crawford prays for the following relief and requests that this Court enter judgment in favor of Crawford and against defendant Top Rank by:

A.     Finding that Top Rank breached its contractual duties owed to Crawford;

B.     Awarding monetary damages in an amount to be proven at trial and over the jurisdictional minimum of this Court;

C.     For punitive damages in an amount to be proven at trial;

D.     Awarding interest in an amount according to proof;

E.     Awarding Crawford’s attorney’s fees and costs as special damages;

F.     Awarding Crawford such further legal or equitable relief as this Court deems just and proper.”

The filing comes nearly two months after Crawford ended his ten-year relationship with Top Rank, including a renewed three-year agreement which began in October 2018. The latter agreement serves as the basis for the complaint, focusing on the second year of the three-year deal where he only had one fight and for which he seeks the bulk of the specified compensation.

As specified in the complaint, Crawford and Top Rank entered into an exclusive contract on August 22, 2018, two months after claiming the WBO welterweight title which he still holds. Crawford still had roughly two more years left on his original contract but sought a more lucrative deal along with the guarantee of Top Rank making an honest effort to pursue a super fight.

Specified in the “2018 Agreement” was the obligation by Top Rank to deliver two fights per contract year—October 13, 2018-October 12, 2019; October 13, 2019-October 12, 2020; and October 13, 2020-October 12, 2021. The contract terms were satisfied during the first and third years, though it was the second year that largely serves as the basis for Crawford’s legal pursuit.

According to the complaint, Crawford was paid $3,500,000 plus an additional $45,000 in training expenses for his October 2018 fight with Jose Benavidez, whom he knocked out the 12th round of their ESPN-televised title fight from his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. The bout was the first under the new contract and marked the first defense of his WBO welterweight title.

Top Rank completed its Year One contractual commitment by delivering a fight with former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan. Crawford scored a stoppage win after the sixth round of their April 2019 ESPN Pay-Per-View event from Madison Square Garden in New York City, for which he was paid $4,800,000 plus another $50,000 in training expenses.

Crawford fought just once during the second contract period—a ninth-round stoppage of then-unbeaten mandatory challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Crawford was paid $4,000,000 plus $50,000 in training expenses for the December 2019 ESPN main event at Madison Square Garden, which immediately followed the network’s live presentation of the 2019 NCAA Heisman Trophy Awards honoring the top college football player.

The win over Kavaliauskas was Crawford’s only fight from October 13, 2019-October 12, 2020.

“Top Rank breached the 2018 Agreement by failing to offer Crawford a second fight in year two of the 2018 Agreement,” alleges Crawford’s legal team in the complaint. “At all times during the 2018 Agreement, Crawford was healthy and ready, willing and able to compete in professional boxing matches.”

The complaint omits the three-month period where no stateside promoter ran boxing events due to the global pandemic. Also not included in the complaint was Crawford’s own on-the-record claim that he would need to be better compensated beyond his contracted guarantee if he were to fight without fans in attendance.

“[I]f it was to happen, then they have to pay me more,” Crawford noted during an April 2020 interview on the Sports Illustrated boxing podcast. “You know, they have to pay me more because fighters of my status and on my level, we get paid for the people that’s coming there as well. So… if I can’t get paid off of people coming, then I’m gonna have to get paid up front.

“[Y]ou gotta pay us fighters because… we’re taking a big risk and [a] health risk at the same time. You know, you can’t play boxing. You know, one false move and you can be six feet [deep].”

The third and final year of the contract saw Crawford earn $3,500,000 for a fourth-round knockout of England’s Kell Brook atop a November 2020 ESPN show at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas; and $6,000,000 for his tenth-round knockout of former two-time welterweight Shawn Porter atop the November 20 ESPN+ PPV from Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, the final fight under their three-year agreement. Crawford also received $50,000 in training expenses for each of those bouts, according to the complaint.

The average purse amount from the aforementioned fights serves as the foundation for his sought compensation of at least $4,500,000 for the fight Crawford believes he was owed.

“His average compensation under the 2018 Agreement was approximately $4,500,000 per bout. Thus, Top Rank owes Crawford no less than $4,500,000 for its breach of the 2018 Agreement by failing to provide Crawford with a second fight during the second year of the 2018 Agreement.”

Additionally, Crawford seeks compensation for Top Rank’s failure to deliver a fight with Spence during that same period.

According to the complaint, both parties “entered into a “Championship Bout Agreement” for a twelve-round bout for Crawford to defend his WBO Welterweight Championship belt against Egidijus Kavaliauskas” on October 11, 2019.

“During the negotiations in or about October 2019, Crawford and his negotiating team informed Arum and DuBoeuf [sic] that he would not take the fight for the $4 million being offered to him. Arum and DuBoeuf informed Crawford that he should take the offer because a fight with Errol Spence Jr. (“Spence”) was right around the corner and that Top Rank could quickly make a Spence-Crawford fight happen.

“In fact, Arum and DeBoeuf said Top Rank would include a “Spence bonus” in the 2019 Kavaliauskas Bout Agreement in excess of nine hundred thousand dollars ($900,000) (the “Arum and DuBoeuf Spence Representations”) because they were confident they could make a fight with Crawford and Spence before the end of 2020.”

Interestingly, such discussion came one day after Spence’s near-fatal single car crash in Dallas, which left him severely injured and—additionally aided by the pandemic—out of the ring for more than 14 months following his September 2019 WBC/IBF title unification win over Shawn Porter.

Nevertheless, Crawford accepted the Kavaliauskas fight under such terms. The complaint alleges that “Top Rank knew there would not be a Crawford-Spence fight pursuant to the terms of the Spence Bonus Provision set forth in the 2019 Kavaliauskas Bout Agreement.

“Top Rank needed Crawford to sign the 2019 Kavaliauskas Bout Agreement in order to honor its obligations to ESPN and fraudulently entered into the 2019 Kavaliauskas Bout Agreement with the Spence Bonus Provision despite never intending to perform that promise in order to fraudulently induce Crawford into entering into the 2019 Kavaliauskas Bout Agreement.”

Spence’s lone fight since the pandemic came in December 2020, when he soundly outpointed former two-division champion Danny Garcia over twelve rounds atop a Fox Sports PPV event from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The win came three weeks after Crawford’s knockout victory over Brook, by which time he remained convinced that the final year of his contract would also mark the end of his longtime relationship with Top Rank. Arum did not help matters by going public with claims that the company was losing money every time Crawford fought. Among the quotes flushed out by Crawford’s attorney were:

·       “I won’t lose any more money on Terence Crawford.”

·       “If he doesn’t, then who the fuck needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world, but, hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him.”

·       “The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights. A beautiful home.”

·       “Again, if we did this fight with Spence and put our money in for half of the first, and Crawford wins and Haymon wants to sign him . . . be my guest, for Christ’s sake! In other words, I am not going to go in my pocket anymore for Terence Crawford.”

·       “Crawford’s never done anything on PPV [pay-per-view].”

Crawford has headlined three PPV events over the course of his career. A July 2016 win over Viktor Postol to unify two titles at junior welterweight—along with establishing a lineal champion—was among the worst performing HBO PPV events in the network’s decades-long involvement in the sport. His fights with Khan and Porter both failed to crack 200,000 buys, with the Porter fight reportedly barely reaching the break-even point.

The other side of the argument, however, was that Crawford was a strong draw both on television and on ESPN’s streaming platform ESPN+ which launched its boxing coverage with his June 2018 knockout win over Horn.

“While Arum loves to criticize Crawford and claim Top Rank has lost money on Crawford fights, Top Rank chose Crawford’s welterweight debut against Jeff Horn to be the first major fight broadcast under Top Rank’s lucrative deal with ESPN to promote bouts on ESPN’s new streaming platform ESPN+. The bout was a ratings bonanza, launched ESPN+ and resulted in millions of dollars to Top Rank. Yet Arum has the audacity to claim he could 'build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights.' On information and belief, Top Rank has lost millions promoting its most popular and well-known white fighters, yet Arum has not openly criticized them.”

The complaint also points to Arum’s actively promoting in South Africa during the height of apartheid, “dismissing the brutal and bloody regime as mere “politics” and saying he did not care about it as long as he could make money.”

Additionally, the complaint also makes note that “[m]ost egregiously, Top Rank [sic] Arum and DuBoeuf [sic] have allowed Arum’s bias against Black fighters to taint their treatment of Crawford, particularly once it became clear, in Arum’s mind, that Crawford would not be re-signing with Top Rank at the end of his promotional rights agreement. Even during the life of the Crawford-Top Rank promotional rights agreement, when Top Rank had a contractual obligation to promote Crawford, Arum launched a smear campaign against Crawford to paint him as an unexciting, unprofitable fighter who could not draw viewers.

“In truth, Top Rank, a company with zero Black executives, and only two or three Black employees, refuses to admit that it simply does not care about, support, or know how to promote Black fighters. Recently, while most businesses have become sensitive to issues of race and social justice, Top Rank has not. At a time when most businesses took steps to honor Black lives in the wake of the George Floyd murder, Top Rank actually refused to place the Black Lives Matter logo on the mats of its boxing rings. Instead of standing behind a Black fighter such as Crawford, it publicly criticized him.”

All of the numerous allegations of racism levied against Crawford and by Top Rank as a whole appear in the complaint’s introduction. None are included in any of the six separate causes of action filed against the promotional outfit.

Interestingly, not mentioned in the complaint were any claims from Arum that efforts were being made to secure a fight between Crawford and now-retired former eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao. Top Rank had Pacquiao under contract through his July 2017 loss to Horn, working with him for his fight with Lucas Matthysse in 2018 before the two parted ways.

Top Rank claimed as recently as last spring that talks were in place for a Pacquiao-Crawford fight to take place June 5 in Abu Dhabi. Arum claimed that a failure by investors to put up the promised funds ultimately killed the deal.

Pacquiao ultimately signed for a fight with Spence to have taken place last August 21. Spence suffered a torn retina forcing him out of the bout, replaced by Yordenis Ugas who outpointed Pacquiao in the final fight of the legendary Filipino’s career.

By that point, Crawford—who is trained and managed by Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre—brought aboard powerful boxing figure Daniel Kinahan—co-founder of MTK Global and alleged crime lord—as an advisor. Neither Kinahan nor MTK Global are mentioned in the 23-page complaint.

In addition to the specified amounts owed, Crawford is also suing for legal expenses expected to be incurred for as long as the complaint remains active. Compensation sought beyond the $5,400,000 amount noted in the two breach of contract charges also stems from Crawford’s belief that Top Rank did not honor the ‘2018 Agreement’ in good faith, alleging that “Arum went out of his way – during the active promotion of Crawford – to harm his reputation and his ability to seek a lucrative promotional contract with another boxing promoter. This is not how Top Rank was to perform under the 2018 Agreement.”

Crawford seeks relief for the specified damages through trial. Despite the active lawsuit, he is free to continue his career as he is now a promotional free agent. 

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox