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Top Rank files $100 million lawsuit against Al Haymon, alleging boxing monopoly attempt

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Bob Arum's Top Rank Promotion has filed a $100 million antitrust lawsuit against Al Haymon and PBC accusing them of trying to monopolize the business of boxing.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

At the US District Court in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Bob Arum and his Top Rank boxing promotion filed a 50-page lawsuit against powerful boxing "adviser" Al Haymon and his partners, Waddell & Reed, a Missouri based investment firm. The suit seeks more than $100 million in damages and an injunction against Haymon and his "predatory practices."

Two months ago Arum and Haymon worked together on the Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao match, the highest grossing event in boxing history.

Al Haymon has been a controversial and enigmatic figure in boxing for some time, and the complaint did nothing to discourage that view. As @BoxingInsider noted on Twitter, "The opening is gold. This should be a movie."

Defendant Alan "Al" Haymon, a former music mogul turned boxing manager, is "the fight game's biggest mystery." Operating in the shadows, he has no website, avoids being photographed, and famously runs his empire from an old school flip phone. For years, Haymon refused to acknowledge that he even had an office. Now, armed with nearly half a billion dollars from a Kansas City-based investment fund, Haymon and Defendant Waddell & Reed are "making a play to take over boxing"—law, fair competition, and fighters' rights be damned. Widely regarded as "boxing's most powerful figure," Haymon brazenly claims that he "could run boxing." He and Waddell & Reed will stop at nothing to get there.

In the suit Top Rank accuses Haymon and his partners of:

rigging the boxing industry so they can act as manager, promoter, sponsor, and ticket broker for nearly every major professional boxer competing in the United States, all in violation of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, the Sherman Act, and a host of other state and federal laws.

Haymon has signed up to 200 boxers to "advising agreements" and earlier this year launched a massive television time-buy campaign for his Premier Boxing Champions to be broadcast on NBC, CBS, ABC, SPIKE, ESPN, and more. This effort is being financed by co-defendants Waddell & Reed, who, according to a story by the SportsBusiness Daily, have reportedly pledged $425 million to the boxing "organization." According to a "boxing insider" PBC's losses may exceed $200 million in the first 24 months of operations.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of engaging in widespread antitrust and anti-competitive conduct:

A. inducing professional boxers to enter unlawful "tie out" agreements, which prevent the boxers (whose interests Haymon purports to represent) from freely contracting with legitimate promoters; 
B. illegally acting as a promoter and fraudulently operating in the promotion business through a network of "sham" promoters; 
C. blocking legitimate promoters' access to major venues through fraud, overbooking, and other unlawful means; and 
D. preventing legitimate promoters from access to television broadcasters through exclusive dealing, overbooking, and other unlawful means.

According to Top Rank and its attorneys, Haymon is also in violation of the Muhammed Ali Reform Boxing Act, which mandated some of the following reforms:

A. "Firewall" Between Managers and Promoters: The Ali Act establishes a "firewall" between promoters and managers. Managers are prohibited from having a "direct or indirect financial interest in the promotion of a boxer," and from being "employed by or receiv[ing] compensation or other benefits from a promoter." 15 U.S.C. § 6308(b). 
B. Protection from Coercive Contracts: The Ali Act declares that long-term "option" contracts are "in restraint of trade, contrary to public policy, and unenforceable against any boxer." Id. § 6307b(a). 
C. Required Disclosures: Promoters are required to make certain financial disclosures regarding the bouts they promote. Id. § 6307e.

A check from Haymon paying what appears to be Julio Cesar Chavez Jr's purse is exhibited as one of the pieces of evidence that Haymon is violating the firewall between managing and promoting.

According to the complaint drafted by Top Rank's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, if Haymon and his co-conspirators are successful, Top Rank, Golden Boy Promotions, Main Events, Don King Productions, K2, Roc Nation, and the other major promoters currently competing for the top boxers will be forced out the business and Haymon will obtain a monopoly over the promotion of "Championship Caliber Boxers," which are defined as boxers that have "demonstrated through such quantitative factors as purse size, television rights, viewership, ticket revenue, and other objective criteria, that they belong to 'the ‘cream' of the boxing business.'"

"Haymon has his way," the complaint concludes, "his sham promotion business will become the only name in professional boxing promotion."

Top Ranks's lawsuit comes on the heels of a similar suit filed in May by Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, in which they were seeking $300 million in damages. A week before that, the Association of Boxing Commissions sent a letter to United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging an investigation into Haymon's practices.

Golden Boy Promotion's founder Oscar De La Hoya posted a statement yesterday regarding Top Ranks lawsuit.

I applaud Bob Arum and Top Rank Boxing for stepping up on behalf of fighters not only in their own stable, but all across the sport. Those like Bob and myself who have spent the bulk of their lives around boxing understand that the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act is a crucial piece of legislation that serves to protect boxers and enhance the sport.

Golden Boy Promotions will continue to push forward with our own lawsuit to ensure our wonderful sport continues to grow in a competitive, just manner.

Barry H. Berke, a spokesman for the firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP., also issued a statement yesterday on behalf of their client, Premier Boxing Championship:

The lawsuit filed today by Bob Arum and Top Rank is entirely without merit and is a cynical attempt by boxing's old guard to use the courts to undermine the accessibility, credibility and exposure of boxing that the sport so desperately needs.

The Premier Boxing Champions series makes boxing free again, by bringing championship boxing to free TV, with a fighter-first promise and a commitment to the fans to restore boxing to the luster of its heyday. The continued success of this effort will far outlast this baseless lawsuit.

All of this might sound vaguely familiar to MMA fans. The UFC has also been hit with an antitrust lawsuit and is suspected to be under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. Even the recent allegations that PBC was sabotaging competitors by blocking access to preferred venues mirrors an accusation Tito Ortiz made against the UFC last year.

it will likely be some time before we get any resolution.