Top Rank claims that with backing from Waddell & Reed Financial and its affiliated Media Group Holdings, “Haymon is rigging the boxing industry so they can act as manager, promoter, sponsor and ticket broker for nearly every major professional boxer competing in the United States.”
“Armed with nearly half a billion dollars from a Kansas City-based investment fund, Haymon and defendant Waddell & Reed are ‘making a play to take over boxing’ – law, fair competition and fighters’ rights be damned,” Top Rank says in the July 1 federal antitrust complaint.
It continues: “Widely regarded as ‘boxing’s most powerful figure,’ Haymon brazenly claims that he ‘could run boxing.’ He and Waddell & Reed will stop at nothing to get there.”
Top Rank claims that to prevent competitors from booking venues in Los Angeles, Haymon uses mangers as promoters, in violation of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, and reserves venues such as the Staples Center and The Forum so that competitors can’t use them, and cancels after they are forced to find other venues.
Haymon is a former promoter for Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Eddie Murphy, M.C. Hammer, New Edition and others and now is a boxing adviser and manager whom Boxing Writers of America twice named Manager of the Year, according to publicly available information.
Haymon is represented by New York City-based Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, which issued a statement saying the lawsuit “is entirely without merit and is 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.”
Oscar De La Hoya disagreed, telling U.S. News and World Report that Top Rank is “stepping up on behalf of fighters not only in their own stable but all across the sport.”
Top Rank claims Haymon has boxers sign “tie out” agreements that prevent them from signing with other promoters, uses a network of “sham” promoters and uses exclusive broadcast agreements and “overbooking” to stop competitors from gaining access to broadcasters.
It says that Haymon and his co-defendants “pay tens of millions of dollars per year for airtime with millions more set aside for ‘promotion and marketing.'”
“Given Haymon’s experience in the music business, it is no surprise that his current monopolistic tactics in boxing mirror the predatory ‘payola’ practices employed in the music industry in the mid-20th century” by paying broadcasters to promote his fights held under the Premiere Boxing Champions brand, Top Rank claims.
Haymon’s attorneys called those claims nonsense in their statement: “The Premier Boxing Champions series makes boxing free again, by bringing championship boxing to free TV, with a fighter-first promise and a commitment to the fans to restore boxing to the luster of its heyday.”
The Muhammad Ali Act requires separation between boxing managers and promoters, prevents managers from having a “direct financial interest” in fight promotions and bans long-term contracts.
But Top Rank claims Haymon “performs the exact role a licensed promoter would ordinarily play – and in so doing takes a ‘direct or indirect financial interest in the promotion of a boxer’ in blatant violation of the Ali Act.”
Top Rank seeks a permanent injunction against monopolistic practices, restitution and $100 million in damages for unfair competition, conspiracy, antitrust violations, unfair trade, interference with prospective economic advantage, and violation of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.
The 50-page lawsuit wastes no time in painting Haymon as a sinister figure. Citing a Dec. 22, 2014 Sports Illustrated article, it begins: “Defendant Alan ‘Al’ Haymon, a former music mogul turned boxing manager, is ‘the fight game’s biggest mystery.’ Operating in the shadows, he has no website, avoids being photographed, and famously runs his empire from an old school flip phone. For years, Haymon refused to acknowledge that he even had an office.”
Named as defendants are Alan Haymon, Haymon Boxing LLC, Haymon Sports LLC, Haymon Holdings LLC, Waddell & Reed Financial and Media Group Holdings LLC, which the complaint describes as “Waddell & Reed-affiliated.”
Neither Top Rank nor its attorney, Daniel Petrocelli with O’Melveny & Myers, could be reached for comment.
Top Rank was founded in 1973. It has a decades-old feud with Don King, with whom it has been accused of trying to monopolize boxing. It also feuded, but came to terms with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.
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