Boxing promoter Bob Arum filed suit Wednesday against Al Haymon and his financial backers, claiming they are violating federal law by acting as illegal promoters and monopolizing fighters and venues for fights.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles mirrors an earlier one filed by Golden Boy Promotions, headed by former boxer Oscar De La Hoya. It asks for more than $100 million in damages from Haymon and the investment firm Waddell & Reed.
The suit centers mainly on alleged violations of federal antitrust laws, along with the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, which prohibits managers from also acting as promoters for boxers.
“Al Haymon and Waddell & Reed are engaged in a sophisticated scheme to gain control of the boxing industry,” Daniel Petrocelli, lead attorney for Arum’s Top Rank Promotions said in a statement. “As the lawsuit explains in detail, they are violating federal law, defying state regulators and absorbing significant short-term losses to drive legitimate operators out of the business.”
The lawsuit mostly cites published reports about Haymon — a former music industry promoter who also manages Floyd Mayweather Jr. — and his actions on behalf of Premier Boxing Champions. The company has signed hundreds of fighters and has bought large amounts of time on national broadcast networks to showcase its fighters.
A spokesman for PBC declined to comment on the suit. But the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel issued a statement on behalf of the boxing group calling the suit “without merit” and “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.”
De La Hoya said he welcomed it and would continue pursuing his own 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,” De La Hoya said in a statement. “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.”
Among the allegations in the lawsuit are that PBC has blocked Top Rank from leasing venues for fights, and has also blocked Top Rank from doing fights with its fighters as well as freezing the company out of the television market.
The suit references Haymon’s past in the music industry by saying he has “engaged in a new form of payola: paying broadcasters to air fights involving Haymon-contracted boxers, under the PBC banner.”
The complaint claims that Waddell & Reed has committed more than $400 million to build Premier Boxing Champions, while reportedly taking large losses as it buys television time for its fighters. The traditional method for boxing promotes is to get rights fees from TV, though for more than two decades boxing was not on network TV.
Petrocelli said the suit is meant to “ensure that Al Haymon and Waddell play by the same rules as everyone else.”
Boxing fans have largely applauded the PBC fights, and they have drawn respectable ratings. Fighters signed by Haymon have also praised him for paying more for their services and keeping them more active than other boxers.
But the fights have struggled at the box office, including a bout last month at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas between Adrien Broner and Shawn Porter in which large blocks of seats were given away so there would appear to be a good crowd on TV.