An image of Adonis Superman Stevenson from a poster advertising a boxing match in Montreal (Showtime Networks Inc.)
The gloves are off in one of the biggest fights in professional boxing.
In one corner is New Jersey Sports Productions Inc., which does business as Main Events, and its boxer Sergey Kovalev, the World Boxing Organization light heavyweight champion. In the other is Canadian promoter Yvon Michel, whose boxer Adonis Stevenson is the World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion.
In a lawsuit filed on April 29, Main Events claims Michel and his Montréal company, Groupe Yvon Michel, reneged on an agreement to air a unification bout this fall between the champion boxers. But he’s not the only one in the ring.
“Our allegation is that obviously it started as a breach,” said Patrick English of Dines and English in Clifton, N.J., an attorney for Main Events. “But the breach was induced by third parties.”
Those third parties, also named as defendants, are prominent boxing manager Al Haymon, Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions Inc. and Showtime Networks Inc., which is part of CBS Corp.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in New York has scheduled a June 6 hearing in the case.
According to the complaint, Kathryn Duva, chief executive officer of Main Events, based in Totowa, N.J., had agreed with Michel to the Stevenson-Kovalev bout in a series of emails on Jan. 23. The next day, an HBO executive agreed to pay a $2.4 million licensing fee to broadcast the fight.
But, according to the suit, Haymon intervened by negotiating a fight for Stevenson against Andrzej Fonfara to be aired on rival network Showtime.
Main Events sent letters on March 26 to Michel and a Showtime executive claiming the planned fight would interrupt their previous agreement, the suit says. “At the end, when it blew up, Michel basically shrugged and said that he had no control, that it was Haymon,” English said.
Michel’s attorney, Jonathan Freund, founding partner of Freund & Brackey in Beverly Hills, declined to comment about the specific allegations beyond stating that “there was no binding agreement.”
“We strenuously deny the allegations in the complaint and will vigorously defend Mr. Michel’s rights,” Freund said. “We think the complaint doesn’t have any merit.”
In targeting one of the most influential managers in professional boxing, the suit criticizes Haymon, owner of Al Haymon Development Inc., for illegally doing business as a promoter in violation of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, which was designed to curb rampant corruption in the sport.
“Everybody in the sport of boxing knows or believes that Al Haymon has crossed the line,” English said. “And everybody has been waiting for someone to do something about it. So this is a case where somebody has actually said, by analogy, that the king has no clothes.”
The suit doesn’t stop there. Haymon’s move, according to the complaint, comes as the manager has partnered with Golden Boy chief executive officer Richard Schaefer, who is attempting to seize control of the Los Angeles promotions firm from De La Hoya, its founder and president. In addition to the Fonfara fight, scheduled to air on May 24, Haymon plans a Stevenson fight against Golden Boy boxer Bernard Hopkins, the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association light heavyweight champion, according to the suit.
Barry Berke, co-chairman of the litigation department at New York’s Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, who represents Haymon, Stevenson, Golden Boy and Showtime, declined to comment.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at firstname.lastname@example.org.