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Donaire Fiasco with Top Rank More Reason for a National Commission

Posted on 03/30/2011

Bob Arum celebrated 45 years as a promoter on Tuesday and there was more reason for the Top Rank chief to be smiling. He defeated Golden Boy Promotions in a legal issue over the promotional rights to unified bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire. But it should have never come down to this if there was a national boxing commission.

Differentiating boxing from all of the other mainstream sports is a national governing body. In other words a commissioner that would set the rules, establish principles and prevent promotional wars over who owns what fighter. Donaire, now one of the high profiled stars in the sport two weeks ago signed a multiyear agreement with Golden Boy despite Top Rank claiming he was their property.

Those with knowledge of the situation never felt that arbitrator Daniel Weinsten would rule against Top Rank. Instead, Golden Boy once again came out the loser and thought they had Arum where they wanted him. But it didn’t happen and Donaire will continue to fight for Arum based on the three-year deal he signed in June of 2008.

This is not to say that Arum, Golden Boy or any of the other promoters are right when it comes to contracting fighters. Contracts in boxing over the years have hardly been valid because there is so much politics in the sport. Usually negotiated between a promoter, and if so, a manager, and what happens after that is the perplexing question.

Fighters may be smart in the ring and leave the legal issues of the politics that take place out of the ring to those they trust, many that use their brainwashing to do the talking. The late Diego Corrales always looked at promoters as those who can make or break a fighter He once told this writer that he never had a manager on record and negotiated his promotional rights. That’s because Corrales was one of the few who could do that.

In the case of Donaire it was another obvious ploy by Golden Boy to get at Arum in their continued war with Top Rank. In February, Donaire, in his first HBO televised fight got well deserved attention when he knocked out Fernando Montiel in the second round and became king in the 118-pound division.

Donaire later said he was able to negotiate with another promoter, but in the end Arum scored the victory as Donaire was being positioned for another fight in May. And reportedly Donaire talked to other promoters who would not get into the legal complications of his contract and made the right move by staying away.

But Golden Boy, as has become constant, showed no justice and made their pitch. A plan apparently was in the works. Donaire made news going to Golden Boy, Arum said it was going to be a legal issue and had his close friend Weinstein review the situation. So for now, Donaire is back in the hands of Top Rank and the sport was sparred from a long legal battle with a champion caught in the middle.

Arum said Tuesday about his tenure in the sport, “Our company, has ambitious plans to what we consider a very bright future in the sport of boxing.” That’s all good because when it comes to a fair fight, Arum definitely wins over a contract war and he continues to produce one good boxing card after another.

But Arum this time also had Weinstein, a retired judge, once again in his corner. And though Arum rightfully had a contract with Donaire, having a friend make a decision was not fair play.

However, the war with Golden Boy continues that goes back to 2007 when Weinstein ruled that Manny Pacquiao was property of Top Rank and not Golden Boy. And there is every reason to believe that this promotional feud will continue because Arum and Oscar de la Hoya, the former Arum fighter, have no respect for each other.

Which leads to the ongoing problem and promoters may be their own enemy by not advocating for a national commission. Instead they formed their own structure of unity with a promoters boxing association. There they can show some unity about advocating safety for the fighter. But they will never have unity when it comes to a standard contract as to fighter/promotional agreement.

The Donaire situation for now is over. Though you get the feeling Arum and Golden Boy will continue their war because a national boxing commission is not around to stop them.

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