Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions announced Wednesday that it has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $300 million against Al Haymon and his various business entities, among others, alleging that they have repeatedly violated antitrust laws and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act -- the latest battle between De La Hoya and Haymon.
Golden Boy, which filed the lawsuit Tuesday in California federal court in Los Angeles, also sued Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc., and its related hedge funds, which are primary source of some $425 million Haymon is using to finance his "Premier Boxing Champions" series. The fight cards began being televised in March on various networks as time buys, including NBC, CBS and Spike TV. Haymon's two-year deal with ESPN begins in July.
The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act is a federal law that prohibits managers from also serving a promoter. Managers have a fiduciary duty to the boxer, but the promoter does not. Golden Boy, like many in the boxing industry, believes that Haymon is functioning as a de facto promoter in addition to managing or advising a stable of more than 180 fighters. Many of those fighters used to have ties to Golden Boy before De La Hoya and his former CEO, Richard Schaefer -- a close Haymon ally -- had a falling out last year.
The suit also alleges that Haymon, who hires promoters on a card-by-card basis to handle the nuts and bolts of his shows, conspired with Waddell & Reed to violate federal and state laws aimed at protecting fighters in order to monopolize boxing. Schaefer and Haymon were close to a deal for Waddell & Reed to buy Golden Boy last year but De La Hoya decided not to sell.
"Since the moment Al Haymon launched Premier Boxing Champions, he has repeatedly and brazenly broken the letter and spirit of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act that is meant to protect fighters from exploitation," Golden Boy said in a statement. "As part of an anti-competitive conspiracy that includes financial backers from Waddell & Reed, Haymon has [according to the suit] 'entered into agreements to restrain trade in a substantial portion of the market for promotion of championship-caliber boxers.'"
According to the lawsuit, Golden Boy believes Haymon "seeks to create a monopoly by illegal, predatory and anti-competitive conduct. He has blatantly ignored the 'firewall' required by federal and state law to separate managers from promoters, by illegally functioning as both a promoter and a manager. While falsely pretending that he is not a promoter, Haymon has forbidden hundreds of boxers he manages to sign with any other promoter; and he has acted to cut off legitimate promoters not only from promoting boxers he manages, but also from essential network television of boxing matches and from the quality arenas necessary for the effective presentation of their bouts. His illegal conduct, designed to eliminate all competition, also constitutes an 'unlawful ... business act or practice' constituting 'unfair competition' under California Business and Professions Code."
"During my 25 years in boxing, I have watched far too many fighters be chewed up, spit out and left with nothing to sit idly by while Mr. Haymon flaunts a federal law meant to protect those who put everything on the line to entertain fans of our sport," De La Hoya, Golden Boy's president and founder, said in a statement. "The Muhammad Ali Act was passed to help fighters avoid the fate that bedeviled so many of our predecessors, and I will do everything in my power to ensure this crucial piece of legislation is upheld and followed."
A representative for Haymon Boxing did not return a message seeking comment. Haymon himself does not speak to the media.
Former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, De La Hoya's partner in Golden Boy Promotions, also spoke out against Haymon.
"At the age of 50 and after spending most of my adult life in boxing, I thought I'd seen every trick in the book aimed at undermining those who actually step into the ring," Hopkins said. "Having personally been refused a lucrative fight with a Haymon-managed fighter [light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson], I have felt firsthand the impact of Haymon's attempt to form a monopoly. These practices are detrimental to boxers, fans and the sport as a whole."
One of the main reasons for De La Hoya's falling out with Schaefer was that, under Schaefer's watch, Golden Boy was promoting most of Haymon's top fighters, such as Floyd Mayweather, Danny Garcia, Marcos Maidana, Deontay Wilder, Keith Thurman and many others, but it did not have promotional contracts with them.
As part of Golden Boy's eight-figure settlement of a lawsuit with Schaefer, it cut ties with all of Haymon's boxers except for a few that were under still under contract. As part of the settlement, Schaefer is not allowed to be involved in boxing promotion until August, when he likely will return to work with Haymon. Golden Boy's suit comes on the heels of an April 28 letter send by the Association of Boxing Commissions to new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking the Justice Department to launch an investigation into Haymon's business practices.
Litigation pertaining to the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act has never been litigated to conclusion. One area where De La Hoya may have an issue in his lawsuit is that none of the boxers, the aim of protection in the Ali Act, Haymon is involved with have complained about Haymon's business practices. In fact, nearly all are making career paydays on a regular basis.