Cuban-born boxer Rances Barthelemy
Cuban-born boxer Rances Barthelemy ()

Cuban-born boxer Rances Barthelemy couldn’t afford a place to live last year. He and his pregnant fiance ended up with a relative and living on welfare.

Now he is 20-0 and the IBF super featherweight champion, besting Argenis Mendez at Miami’s American Airlines Arena on July 10.

Within days, a lawsuit was filed against Barthelemy by his Miami promoter, Bad Dog Productions LLC, saying he cut the company out of the proceeds of last month’s fight and the even more lucrative ones expected from defending his title.

The June 18 lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court and moved to Broward Circuit Court, also names as defendants Davie attorney Leon Margules’ Warriors Boxing and Promotions LLC and Alan Haymon, one of the fight game’s most powerful figures. Haymon has promoted the likes of Eddie Murphy and Whitney Houston as well and has boxing ties to HBO and Showtime.

“He is trying to change the way the business is run,” Margules said of Haymon. “He is trying to put more money in the hands of fighters and less in the hands of promoters.”

Bad Dog Productions said it discovered Barthelemy only to be cut out by Margules and Haymon when it became apparent the boxer was a contender.

Attorney Jorge L. Fors Jr., a partner at Fors Attorneys at Law in Coral Gables representing Bad Dog, said Haymon is signing a lot of Margules’ clients, but he has no proof yet the two have made an official alliance.

“We believe this is part of larger plan that Haymon has to take over boxing, to become a promoter and adviser for everybody,” Fors said. “Some have said he wants to go even farther by controlling all the boxers so that he would almost be able to form his own league.”

Fors said Bad Dog is not as interested in suing Barthelemy.

“Our issues is with Margules and Haymon. The fighter I’m sure was manipulated. He probably doesn’t know a lot of what’s going on.”

When Barthelemy started living up to his championship potential, Haymon aligned with Warriors to cut Bad Dog out of the picture, Fors said.

“My client discovered and groomed the fighter into the championship contender he is today,” he said.

Haymon’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit assigned to Broward Circuit Judge Carol Lisa Phillips. Haymon’s local counsel is Sean R. Santini of Santini Law in Miami, who referred calls to attorneys at New York’s Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.

A call for comment was not returned by the firm, but the dismissal motion claims the lawsuit is a contract dispute between two South Florida promoters that doesn’t really involve Haymon.

“Notably, mere acts of business competition or providing services to Barthelemy are not, standing alone, unjustified or international interference under the law,” the motion argued.

Title Fight

The lawsuit claims unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference and injunctive relief.

Margules speculated Bad Dog is looking for a deep pocket.

He said he put up all the money to promote July’s title fight, which would garner Bad Dog an estimated $10,000. But Fors said Bad Dog wants a piece of future earnings for Barthelemy.

“Future earning could get very high in value because now he is a champion,” Fors said. “Fights going forward could earn between $150,000 and $250,000.”

Margules called the lawsuit “a shakedown for money.”

“They abandoned this kid a long time ago, and when the kid became worth something they wanted back in,” he said.

Bad Dog discovered Barthelemy and brought Margules in as a co-promoter. But Margules said the plaintiff didn’t put any money into the fighter, refusing even to provide housing for him last year.

Barthelemy sought better representation, signing Haymon as his manager, and now wants nothing to do with Bad Dog, Margules added.

A countersuit claims Bad Dog in October 2012 asked Barthelemy to lie to Las Vegas police and say he was at the wheel when another of its Cuban-born boxers, former Olympian Luis Franco, was arrested for drunken-driving. At the time, Margules said Bad Dog thought Franco was the better bet to be champion and wanted little to with Barthelemy.

Fors calls the DUI allegation absurd.

“We not only deny it but say it makes no sense. How do you take the rap for someone who has been arrested for DUI?” he asked.

Fors reiterated another promoter’s claim in a lawsuit filed against Haymon in New York claiming he violated the federal Muhammad Ali Act. The law prohibits people from serving as both promoter and manager. Fors said Haymon has gotten around the restriction by calling himself an adviser.