February 6, 2017

The Square Jungle: Al Haymon KO 1 Oscar De La Hoya

Before the shock of Oscar De La Hoya being arrested for Driving Under the Influence had begun to subside, Golden Boy Promotions suffered another setback when U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, of the Court of Central California, dismissed its antitrust case against Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions. This courtroom battle turned into the equivalent of George Kennedy (as Dragline) pummeling Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke.” And just like so many mismatches that have dominated the American boxing scene over the last year, it was a massacre.

How did Golden Boy suffer such a decisive KO against Haymon in court? Among one of many reasons, perhaps, is the fact that GBP may have overreached. “To the extent Golden Boy made any mistakes in the case,” says Paul Haberman, principal owner of the Law Offices of Paul S. Haberman, LLC, “I would say that perhaps the lawsuit was a little overambitious and perhaps should have focused more on some of the questionable steps actually taken against Golden Boy by Haymon in concert with (former GBP CEO) Richard Schaefer. Like the Top Rank lawsuit, this lawsuit attempted to be a far-reaching indictment of Haymon’s entire business practice and not necessarily a vehicle to litigate any specific misdeeds allegedly committed by Haymon against Golden Boy.”

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Golden Boy also produced an expert witness whose work was as shoddy as some of its matchmaking. Indeed, the nebulous concept of “Championship Caliber Boxers,” provided by Dr. Robert Kneuper, seemed no more than a bit of creative non-fiction and, as such, stands as a symbolic attempt at applying spurious order on a sport that is nearly devoid of oversight – never mind the fact it was concocted out of thin air.

Dr. Kneuper also bungled the predatory pricing aspect of the suit. “Judge Walter chided (Dr. Kneuper) for not performing any recoupment analysis,” says Kurt Emhoff, an attorney at Berg & Androphy, who currently manages ex-middleweight titleholder Sam Soliman and has provided legal services to several boxers in the past, “and only stating that Haymon intended to flip its model to obtain license fees, which Haymon ‘believed’ would eventually lead to recoupment. GBP needed to demonstrate a reasonable prospect of recoupment and Judge Walter held that the expert evidence was woefully short of that.”

Dr. Kneuper has a Ph.D. in Applied Economics, which, of course, means less than zero in the random world of boxing. Next time Golden Boy wants to sue someone, it should consider hiring experts with advanced degrees in animal husbandry, game theory and organizational leadership. In the end, the decentralized and barely-regulated aspects of boxing will win out – extraneous credentials be damned.

Indeed, Emhoff notes how difficult it is to charge someone with monopolization in an industry as haphazard as boxing. “Defining the market is extremely difficult in a world sport such as boxing,” Emhoff told UCNLive. “Back in the 1940s and 1950s, when there was one world champion in each division and the power base was almost entirely in the U.S., an entity like the IBC (the International Boxing Club) could exert some anti-competitive control. It’s a different world now. Specific to this case, the fighters who Haymon represents are getting paid well and they are not complaining (unlike the UFC fighters and their ongoing antitrust suit). GBP also now has an exclusive television deal of their own with ESPN – one of the bigger networks, with which Haymon formerly had an exclusive deal. I think after Top Rank, in their settlement with Haymon, got the concession from him to waive the exclusivity provisions in all of his television agreements – that made it more difficult for GBP’s monopoly claims.”

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