Promoter Files for Breach of Contract
By Bryanna Fissori
Just a month after pleading no contest to charges of fixing fights and promoting without a license, Celebrity Boxing Promoter Damon Feldman filed his own suit against former Major League Baseball star Jose Canseco.
Canseco was scheduled to fight under the Celebrity Boxing Federation promotion in a March 26th bout in Hollywood, Florida against Billy Padden, a trainer and boxer. This would have been Canseco’s third bout under the promotion. He previously boxed actor Danny Bonaduce and former Philadelphia Eagles kick returner Vai Sikahema.
The complaint filed is for breach of contract for failing to fight at the event. Feldman believes that the man who arrived ready to fight on March 26 was not Jose Canseco, but his twin brother Ozzie Canseco. Reportedly, a photographer at the event identified Ozzie once he removed his shirt because he dose not have the same bicep tattoos as his brother. According to numerous sources this would not be the first time the Canseco brothers pulled a stunt like this as Ozzie is notorious for sitting in as Jose at autograph signings. The bout was cancelled and all 400 spectators were offered admission to the promotion’s next event.
The Celebrity Boxing Federation is a promotion geared toward taking people who are famous, or once were famous (at least a little famous) and giving them their 16th minute of fame. Most of the celebrities are C and below level actors, lesser known professional athletes or past media targets who are no longer news-worthy. The list of boxers includes the likes of John Wayne Bobbitt, Michael Lohan (Lindsay’s father), and Jesse James’ mistress Michelle McGee.
Feldman asserts that before the fight, the man he first thought was Jose Canseco repeatedly asked to receive the $5,000 arrival fee in cash. Feldman refused, stating that it had to be issued by check for accounting purposes. The check was not issued and Feldman is now asking the court to also return the $5,000 advance he gave Canseco prior to the bout.
“Honestly, now I can’t be sure if I ever met the real Jose Canseco,” stated Feldman in an interview with Boxing Insider. “And the last time he fought for me he wore a rash guard.”
Canseco’s would-be opponent, Billy Padden has stated a different set of facts to the media attesting that it was in-fact Canseco who was warming up for the bout and that he left because Feldman refused to issue payment for the night’s bout and a money he was owed from a previous bout. Other accounts state that Canseco (whichever one was there) was escorted off the premises by the police.
The accounts of the night only get increasingly distorted from there. In an interview with the Florida Sun-Sentinel Jose Canseco stated that he has had four back surgeries and his back gave out before the fight. He told Feldman he was substituting Ozzie, but when Ozzie wasn’t announced that night as himself he refused to go in the ring because that would be fraud. Jose also said that they only went along with Ozzie posing as Jose at weigh-ins to help Feldman. Feldman’s attorney, Bob Bush stated to Boxing Insider that there is no doubt that Ozzie was posing as Jose at the weigh-ins, but they were unaware at the time.
Feldman is currently on two years of probation, but Canseco has not been so squeaky clean either. Over the last decade or two he has been found guilty on domestic violence charges and felony assault. The felony charge got him two years house arrest probation. He has also admitted to using steroids during his time as a major league baseball player. This steroid use was followed by a misdemeanor when Canseco was caught bringing in an illegal fertility drug, supposedly to try and reverse the damage done by years of steroid use.
Feldman is asking the court to return the $5,000 he advanced to Canseco and $1,500 for the airline ticket to get to the event. The contract signed by Canseco and Feldman explicitly states that the money is to be returned under the given circumstances, though it is humorous that whoever drafted the contract has Canseco’s gender incorrect.
“Canseco agrees to return all monies advanced from “Federation”, if any, if for any reason the boxing event in March 26, 2011 should not take place due to Canseco not appearing, and realizes that should she not be able to participate in the event, for whatever reason, she will not be entitled to any compensation heretofore enumerated and will return all money, if any, previously advanced to her.”
The punctuation has been corrected for the benefit Boxing Insider readers, but the gender was too good to remove, not to mention the interesting sentence structure and grammar. The contract only got better in the following bullet point and included creative capitalization among other things.
“Canseco come to the Celebrity Boxing After Party. Amd Federation agrees to make sure Canseco will receive Travel and Hotel Accomodations.”
(I apologize for being such a critic about the contract language, but someone actually got paid to write that!)
Despite its sloppy construction, a court will likely find the contract enforceable. There is no doubt that by failing to perform at the event, Jose Canseco breached the contract. The contract had no stipulation as to how the funds were to be provided, but if it is standard practice for the promotion to pay by check, and if Canseco had previously accepted payment in that form, a court would be hard pressed to find the breach reasonable due to Canseco’s assertion that he wanted cash payment.
If it becomes and issue for the court, Feldman carries the burden of proof in asserting that Ozzie Canseco was posing as his brother for the bout. If this can be proven then Feldman could also bring a cause of action for fraud against both Cansecos, which carries the possibility of punitive damages. At this point such charges have not been filed.
“We discussed bringing the fraud charges with Damon,” said Bush, “but he just doesn’t want the headache. These two have worked together before and as far as we know Canseco hasn’t pulled anything like this before. We could probably bring criminal charges if we wanted to. No one even noticed until the photographer came up to Damon and wanted to make sure he knew that the guy going in the ring was Ozzie. Jose has stated before that he is bigger than Ozzie, but Damon is only 5’11” so they both look big to him, and he is so busy at the event that he has very little time to spend with the fighters directly. Damon has been good to Jose and made him a lot of money.”
Whether Feldman really does want to avoid the headache of fraud charges, is attempting to save face with Canseco or doubts his ability to meet the burden of proof, the breach cause of action will stand and the first hearing will take place on May 18.
On the other hand maybe Feldman is just too busy to deal with extended litigation while in the midst of planning the next show. Hopefully someone advises him against choosing one of the Olsen twins as a competitor.