By Bryanna Fissori
Long time boxing manager and industry professional, Al Haymon has had a decent year with the success of “Premier Boxing Champions (PBC),” which hosted its first event on March 7, 2015. The series airs nearly every other weekend and is broadcast on virtually all major sports stations including NBC, NBC Sports Network, ESPN, CBS, Fox Sports 1 and Spike TV as well as others. The rise of the promotion has not gone unnoticed by its similarly situated peers, and after being hit with two separate lawsuits claiming antitrust violations, it appeared that Haymon was about to have a bad day in in court. Earlier this week that turned out to be a false alarm, as one of the two lawsuits was dismissed.
The cases in question were brought separately by Top Rank, Inc and Golden Boy Promotions against Al Haymon for violations of the Sherman Act, California Unfair Competition Law and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. Though the Golden Boy suit was filed earlier, Top Rank’s was the first to be heard and thus the first dismissed, though the plaintiff was granted the option to re-file.
Specifically the complaint from Top Rank accused Haymon of a number of anti-competitive tactics including:
– Inducing professional boxers to enter unlawful “tie out” agreements, which prevent the boxers (who’s interests Haymon purports to represent) from freely contracting with legitimate promoters;
– Illegally acting as a promoter and fraudulently operating in the promotion business through a network of “sham” promoters;
– Blocking legitimate promoters’ access to major venues through fraud, overbooking, and other unlawful means; and
– Preventing legitimate promoters from access to television broadcasters through exclusive dealings, overbooking and other unlawful means.
Judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California determined that the allegations by Top Rank did not satisfy the anti-trust standards for injury. In order to satisfy the elements for violation, the plaintiff must be able to prove injury and apparently Top Rank came up short.
According to judge Walter, ” . . . Top Rank has not adequately alleged injury to itself, which is not only an element of antitrust injury, but also of Article III standing . . . Without any additional factual allegations, the Court cannot determine whether Top Rank has alleged an injury-in-fact, let alone whether that injury flows from that which makes the conduct unlawful.”
In the lawsuit Top Rank eluded to injury due to “monopolistic tactics,” in regards to the broadcasting of PBC. According to Top Rank, “In order to stifle legitimate promoters from competing against PBC, Haymon has obtained exclusivity commitments from broadcasters.” Weather or not this is true, in order to bring the complaint Top Rank must prove that they were in fact injured, especially when requesting $100 million in damages along with an injunction against Haymon.
The judge was also not convinced that Haymon has enough power in the industry as a promoter or manager to negatively impact the industry. The claim for monopolistic practices may seem plausible on the surface given the reach of the PBC broadcast, but not when taking into consideration that the many of the largest boxing shows, with the highest viewership and profit are on HBO, TruTV and Showtime, which are not yet airing PBC.
“Top Rank fails to allege any evidentiary facts plausibly suggesting restricted output or supracompetitive prices in the promotion market . . . and has failed to allege injury to itself.”
The judge also completely dismissed defendants Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc which is the management and financial company that backs a number of Haymon’s business ventures. The Golden Boy case also lists the company as a defendant.
The case filed by Golden Boy will be heard in the same court by the same judge and is expected to obtain the same result. That being said, they may also receive the option to re-file. In that case, Haymon may not be completely out of the woods, but both potential plaintiffs will have to do some fancy wording to make the case stick.