As title boxing bouts go, the Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao fight was a tepid bore. The ensuing legal brawl may prove more interesting.
A couple of disgruntled ticket holders are suing Pacquiao and his fight promoter, Top Rank, for $5 million. They are seeking class action status on behalf of all those who bought tickets or pay per view, plus those who wagered money on the event.
In the end, the plaintiffs will likely lose. But the legal fisticuffs will be worth watching as the facts unfold in the ring… er, uh, courtroom.
In one corner is Daniel Petrocelli, one of the finest trial lawyers in America who is defending Top Rank. He is best known for winning a $33.5 million dollar wrongful death judgment against O.J. Simpson and clobbering the defendant-killer on the witness stand.
In the other corner is Brandon B. McDonald, who practices family law, bankruptcy and real estate in Henderson, Nevada. Okay, I’ve never heard of the guy… but then, no one ever heard of Rocky Balboa until he took on the champ.
McDonald’s federal lawsuit accuses the “Pac-Man”, his manager and promoters of fraudulently concealing a shoulder injury before the boxing match, thereby “victimizing” the plaintiffs and “unjustly enriching” the defendants. They are also accused of consumer fraud under a statute that is so tortured in its language that it’s as incomprehensible as a fighter who’s sustained a lifetime of head blows.
To put it in comprehensible terms, the plaintiffs feel they were ripped off. They wouldn’t have bought their tickets if they knew Pacquiao wasn’t 100 percent.
But c’mon… what fighter is? Training is grueling and pre-bout injuries are not uncommon. It’s a part of the sport. In fact, it’s a component of any sport. Athletes play injured. They probably shouldn’t, but they do. Professional boxing is no different.
Moreover, a boxer can be injured on the first punch of the bout. Or knocked out in the first round the way Muhammad Ali KO’d Sonny Liston. Which was after Liston KO’d Floyd Patterson in round one. It was “lights out” for Michael Spinks after only 91 seconds in the ring with Mike Tyson. See what I mean?
The point is this: boxing is a precarious sport in which viewers must, inexorably, assume the risk that the money they paid to watch may be wasted.
Legally, the plaintiffs will have a tough time even getting this case “into the ring.” I’d expect Petrocelli to file a motion to dismiss, arguing that the defendants owe no legal duty to viewers or bettors to disclose anything at all. If there’s no duty, there’s no case. That would be a legal knockout in round one.
But if plaintiffs manage to survive the initial rounds whereby the case is actually tried before a jury, the principle issues will be 1) whether Pacquiao made what is called a “material misrepresentation of fact” when he checked “no” on a form asking whether he was injured before the fight; and 2) whether he knew he had a significant injury, but failed to disclose it in advance or actively sought to conceal it from boxing officials and the public.
I’ll take a ringside seat next to the jury, just to watch the lawyers jab and punch at one another. And to see “Pac-Man” explain that his shoulder might have been sore before he put on his gloves, but wasn’t seriously injured or re-injured until the 4th round. This will be corroborated by doctors who conducted a physical examination before the fight and gave him the green light to step into the ring.
If the defendants were trying to deceive or cover up an injury, why did they seek permission from officials for treatment, including anti-inflammatory injections, right before the fight?
Boxing fans have gotta learn to “roll with the punches.” Stop whining or running to the courthouse to demand your money back. A so-called Fight of the Century never comes with a guarantee. Sometimes it’s a dud.
If you shell out big bucks to watch a fight, be prepared to get sucker punched now and again.
Gregg Jarrett is a Fox News legal analyst and former defense attorney.