By Bryanna Fissori
Middleweight Champion Andre Ward (27-0-0) may have a great record in the ring, but he hasn’t had any luck in the courtroom so far. Last week Ward filed suit against his promoter Dan Goossen and Goossen Tudor Promotions. This is the boxer’s third legal attempt to put distance between himself and Goossen, but the promoter isn’t having any of it and has fired back with a $10 million defamation lawsuit.
Violation of the “Ali Act”
After over a year of legal battles, the straw that broke the camel’s back was Ward’s most recent accusation, which comes in the form of violation of the Ali Act. Ward is claiming that Goossen failed to make timely disclosures of all compensation or consideration he was receiving in relation to Ward’s fighting endeavors between 2004 and 2012. This also includes disclosure of purse reductions, charges and expenses deducted from Ward’s pay. Particular incidences of failure to disclose include four specific fights: Sakio Bika (2010), Arthur Abraham (2011), Carl Froch (2011) and Chad Dawson (2012).
Section 13 (b) of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act states:
DISCLOSURES TO THE BOXER- A promoter shall not be entitled to receive any compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match until it provides to the boxer it promotes–
‘(1) the amounts of any compensation or consideration that a promoter has contracted to receive from such match;
‘(2) all fees, charges, and expenses that will be assessed by or through the promoter on the boxer pertaining to the event, including any portion of the boxer’s purse that the promoter will receive, and training expenses; and
‘(3) any reduction in a boxer’s purse contrary to a previous agreement between the promoter and the boxer or a purse bid held for the event.
Violation of the Ali Act constitutes a criminal charge and could establish up to a year in prison, as well as fines and/or damages as stated by Section 6(2) of the act.
Arbitration Attempts to Nullify Contract
In June of 2013 Ward attempted to void his contract with Goossen through arbitration, but lost. This validated the agreement. Then round two came earlier this year and the contract went through another arbitration hearing, which Ward lost again. His contract with Goossen is currently authorized through November 8, 2016 according to the ruling issued by the California State Athletic Commission.
California Labor Code Violation
Ward already has another case currently pending against Goossen in California Superior Court in attempt to nullify the contract. The lawsuit is founded on the contention that the agreement should be voided based on California’s seven-year limit on personal service contracts. This statute is found in California Labor Code Section 2855. Ward’s original contract with Goossen commenced in December 2004 following his gold medal win in the Athens Olympic Games. In 2011 he signed a contract extension that was to go into effect on September 8, 2012.
This is the same labor law argument Oscar De La Hoya made in 2001 in his case against Top Rank, which he won, voiding the contract. This may or may not have bearing on the Ward case. The difference may be whether the court views the additional years as “extension” of the existing contract formed 2004 or as “additional agreements.”
The labor law case is scheduled for a hearing on demurrer on August 19, 2014. Demurrer is a challenge on the legal sufficiency of a claim. This hearing may also be used to compel arbitration.
Defamation of Character
Now, with two cases pending against Goossen, it is not surprising that he is feeling defamed. The four elements to win on a defamation case include:
– A false statement purporting to be fact concerning another person or entity
– Publication or communication of that statement to a third person
– Fault on the part of the person making the statement amounting to intent or a least negligence
– Some harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement
The interesting part about the defamation case is that Goossen will likely allege falsities pertaining to legal claims made by Ward. If this is the case, those specific claims may be difficult to rule on, given that their validity or falsity has yet to be established. If the claims are pertaining to statements made outside of the lawsuits as to the character of Goossen, these constitute a valid cause of action.
A press release issued by Goossen’s attorney, Bert Fields stated, “On or about August 6th, 2014, McCarroll (Attorney for Ward) intentionally and knowingly issued false and defamatory statements in the media and public concerning Goossen, including public assertions that Goossen regularly, repeatedly and deliberately violated the Ali Act.
McCarroll had no factual basis for his false and highly damaging accusations of criminal behavior by Goossen, and issued these public accusations not only in reckless disregard for the truth, but in a deliberate act of unmitigated malice and spite.”
Goossen is seeking $10 million in damages, plus legal fees. With three lawsuits pending between Goossen and Ward, these two may have a long fight schedule ahead, just not in the ring.