By Ivan G. Goldman
All these lawsuits filed by upset fans, bettors, and sports bars because they claim they were cheated by the egregiously disappointing “fight of the century” on May 2 look awfully silly and ought to be thrown out, but that’s not necessarily what will happen.
Many of the more than 30 plaintiffs seek class action status. Such suits, when successful, notoriously reward the attorneys who file them while their clients end up with small change. But sometimes the law treats these jokes seriously. Witness the recent fictions perpetrated by this Supreme Court that corporations are people and money is speech.
It’s beginning to sound awfully Orwellian around here. Maybe it all started when they renamed the Defense Department from what it really was – the War Department. But I digress.
These lawsuits name basically all the deep pockets connected to the fight – Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, the promoters, HBO, Showtime, cable companies, and so on. The fighters split something like $300 million in purse money 60-40 in Floyd’s favor, and attorneys smell Ft. Knox at the end of the rainbow.
At issue is the strong possibility that Pacquiao entered the fight with a bum shoulder, which was not disclosed until later, when the bout was completed and the money collected. He underwent surgery five days after the contest.
Fans had yearned for this particular bout for years. Somehow it got built into many minds as a kind of Shangri-la experience, the fight that would bestow ecstasy on all who witnessed it. What fans got looked like a typical Mayweather fight, which is about as fan-friendly as the record $100 fee charged for the pay-per-view telecast.
But the fact that the fight stunk probably has no legal standing. Sports events stink all the time.
Only last year San Francisco and Washington played the longest major league postseason game ever — the second game of the National League Division series. Nationals fans sat there for 18 grueling innings – six hours and 23 minutes, only to see their team lose 2-1. Should they get their money back?
NBA coaches often extend a hopelessly lost game by ordering their players to foul intentionally. Maybe they’re hoping for an earthquake or something. It’s a tactic that’s about as fan-friendly as defense-obsessed Mayweather. Should the fans get a discount?
More serious are the possible charges against members of the Pacquiao team for signing a commission form that failed to disclose the shoulder injury. Athletes compete with serious injuries all the time. But in prizefighting it can lead to legal jeopardy.
Because the Nevada commission is a state entity and because of the fine print on the form, Pacquiao’s signature left him open to a possible perjury charge in a criminal proceeding. Nevada, feeling the heat from outraged fans, might seek to throw Pacquiao into the flames.
Lying under oath is what almost put Barry Bonds in prison. He was convicted in 2011 for obstruction of justice for giving an evasive answer to a PEDs question under oath. The conviction was recently overturned, but the case couldn’t have been terribly pleasant for him.
On the other hand, by now Pacquiao ought to be used to legal threats. The Philippines revenuers have been trying to confiscate his fortune for years on the basis of tax allegations. One gets the feeling Congressman Pacquiao could make the action go away if he’d play ball with the right politicians.
If lawyers could prove that anyone connected to the fight had knowledge of the bum shoulder and made a legal Nevada bet on Mayweather, that could also raise judicial concerns.
Should the disgruntled plaintiffs get their day in court, non-fans on the jury could get a real education if they had to watch videos of all 48 Mayweather fights from start to finish.
But it would be a dangerous tactic. What if some of them kill themselves to make it stop?
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.