By Jake Donovan
A day after hit with a major lawsuit alleging breach of contract, the World Boxing Super Series tournament organizers find themselves in a familiar position—on the ropes and prepared to counter.
The WBSS super lightweight finals between unbeaten titlists Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor remains without a fight date or venue and—as of Friday afternoon—potentially without a key participant. As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, Prograis has filed a complaint against WBSS and tournament overseer Comosa AG for failure to honor past contractual obligations as it pertains to this fight, seeking to be released from the series altogether.
Not one to fade away without a fight, a public response has come to the lawsuit.
WBSS brass claimed in a press statement that “all tournament fighters have fair contracts regarding their exclusive participation in the tournament. This is no different for Regis Prograis and WBSS greatly values Regis’ participation in the tournament.
“The litigation initiated by Regis Prograis and DiBella Entertainment Inc. (DBE) in the New Jersey District Court is completely unfounded and without any basis in fact or in law.”
The heart of the legal complaint filed by New Orleans (La.)-bred Prograis (24-0, 20KOs) outlined Comosa AG failing to deposit finals funds—the guaranteed purse and the win bonus—into an escrow account in advance of the tournament. Prograis and Scotland’s Taylor (15-0, 12KOs) are guaranteed $700,000 each for the finals, with the winner to collect an additional $1.3 million.
As of Thursday, such funds were never deposited, nor was a firm location established for the finals. The language of the filed complaint was in line with earlier suggestions of the fight taking place on Oct. 5 at an unspecified venue in the United Kingdom. The last submitted draft by Comosa indicated plans to move up the fight Sept. 28, thus giving participants one week less to train not to mention Prograis having to travel abroad one week earlier, leaving him with even less preparation time.
It was the last straw for the unbeaten 140-pound titlist, who had DBE’s legal team file the lawsuit on his behalf.
It’s an unfortunate development and sadly one where history repeats itself. Ivan Baranchyk—also promoted by DBE—took a similar approach heading into his semifinals bout with Taylor, as he was prepared to walk away from the tournament amidst controversy which saw a number of opening round participants having to threaten legal action in order to get paid for their quarterfinals bouts.
The issue was eventually resolved after Comosa—whom previously took a similar public approach in threaten legal action against any participant who didn’t complete the tournament—worked out an agreement with Barancyhk’s team.
Such resolution doesn't appear to be on the horizon for this latest development, although Comosa isn’t going down without a fight.
“WBSS strenuously denies that it has violated any contractual obligation towards Regis Prograis or DiBella Entertainment Inc.,” the statement continued. “The WBSS has enforced its tournament contracts in the past and will do so again with all resources available if needed. We look forward to the upcoming final of the Super Lightweights for the Al Trophy between Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor, which promises to be a spectacular boxing night.
“WBSS will defend the tournament against any attempts of third parties to interfere with the tournament with all means and in all jurisdictions available as necessary.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox