A jury in Florida's Miami-Dade circuit court on Monday awarded All-Star Boxing promoter Felix "Tutico" Zabala Jr. $8.5 million in damages in his breach of contract and unjust enrichment lawsuit against lineal middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.
In 2011, Zabala, who originally brought Alvarez from Mexico to fight in the United States, filed suit against Golden Boy Promotions and Alvarez. He contended that he signed Alvarez to a four-year promotional deal in 2008 and that Golden Boy interfered and stole the fighter, who has gone on to become one of the biggest stars in boxing and regularly generates tens of millions of dollars each time he fights.
It took five years for the case to go to trial, but following Monday's closing arguments in a trial that lasted three weeks before Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorenz, the jury deliberated for three hours before rendering a verdict. While it found that Alvarez and All-Star Boxing did not have a valid contract, it did find that Alvarez unjustly enriched himself, and awarded Zabala damages.
"Maybe there was not a dead-on contract between them, but there was clearly a relationship that existed between Canelo and Zabala and the jury felt it necessary to compensate Zabala for what he did for launching Canelo's career in the United States," Alex Brito, Zabala's attorney, told ESPN.com. "The jury made a determination of what the value was for what Tutico did for Canelo when he was starting off as a professional in the United States."
Zabala was seeking as much as $159 million, plus punitive damages, taking into account the next 10 years of Alvarez's potential earnings under the concept of "lost future profits," Brito said.
In actual damages, "we asked for $24 million and were awarded $8.5 million. Tutico is ecstatic with the result. He's thrilled with the result and that we stood up to Canelo and people who are disrespectful. This case was about more than money. He's thrilled -- $8.5 million is a substantial event in his life."
Zabala told ESPN.com: "I'm very happy. This case was about dignity and to create a precedent in the sport. I did it for my father's legacy, for my son who is coming up in the business, and for all promoters. This is a very momentous moment in my company's and family's history, and bottom line: We won an $8.5 million dollar verdict against Canelo Alvarez."
According to a Golden Boy spokesman, Alvarez plans to appeal.
Although Alvarez was hit for damages, Zabala did not win any judgment against Golden Boy, which he sued for tortuous interference. But with the jury deciding there was no valid agreement between Alvarez and Zabala, that meant there was no contract for Golden Boy to interfere with.
"We are extremely pleased that not only did the jury find that no contract ever existed between Canelo and All-Star Boxing, but issued a judgment against All-Star Boxing," Golden Boy said in a statement. "Over the last five-plus years, many questioned why we wouldn't just settle the case before trial. The answer is simple: We would not be extorted. It was clear from the beginning that neither Canelo nor Golden Boy Promotions had acted inappropriately in any way. We are grateful that the jury was able to see that.
"However, it is absurd to think that All-Star Boxing provided anywhere near that amount [$8.5 million] of value that the jury awarded under a separate claim. We will appeal this part of the decision, and are confident we will win, just as we did on the contract dispute. Outside of appealing the financial damages, we now look forward to putting this episode behind us and working with Canelo to continue his meteoric rise though the boxing ranks."
A Golden Boy spokesman said the company would seek to have the court rule that All-Star Boxing must cover its "substantial legal fees."
"Golden Boy is off the hook, but Canelo is on the hook for $8.5 million," Brito said. "If Canelo wants to try to avoid paying, there are many ways to collect the money, especially if he decides to fight. There will be money to go after."
Alvarez plans to fight in September, although who he will face has not been determined. There have been conversations between Golden Boy and K2 Promotions' Tom Loeffler, who promotes unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin, for them to fight in what would be one of the biggest fights in boxing. However, those talks were put on hold while the lawsuit was going on, and most believe that if the fight were to happen, it would not be until next year.