LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao's defamation lawsuit against longtime boxing rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. and others rests on firm allegations and can continue, a Nevada federal judge said in a court order Monday that denied a motion to dismiss the case.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks said Pacquiao has sufficient evidence to continue his lawsuit that alleges Mayweather and others acted with malice by accusing the Filipino boxer in a series of interviews of using performance-enhancing drugs.
"Moving defendants argue that Pacquiao has failed to sufficiently allege malice because moving defendants could not have known one way or the other whether Pacquiao had actually taken PEDs when they made the alleged defamatory statements," the order reads. "However, the court finds that Pacquiao has sufficiently pled malice in the amended complaint."
Pacquiao claimed in the suit that he has never tested positive for any performance-enhancing drugs, but that Mayweather, Mayweather's father and uncle, Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions' Richard Schaefer embarked on a campaign to make people think he used drugs.
"The truth did not stop Mayweather and the others," the suit contends. "That is because they are motivated by ill will, spite, malice, revenge and envy."
Mark Tratos, a Las Vegas lawyer who represents Mayweather Promotions LLC, said the lawsuit was without merit and he would continue to fight for its dismissal. He said the defendants merely questioned Pacquiao's reluctance to submit to drug testing, but stopped short of declaring Pacquiao a drug user. Statements of defamation must consist of facts, not opinions.
Tratos said Pacquiao would also have trouble proving the defendants acted with malice, which is required because the famous boxer is a public figure.
"The malice standard is very, very high," Tratos said. "We do not believe it can be met by the plaintiff."
Schaefer declined to comment on the court order. De La Hoya's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
Pacquiao's attorney, Dan Petrocelli, said his client's professional career would suffer if boxing fans believe he used steroids or human growth hormone to win titles in seven weight classes.
"Manny has an unblemished reputation and has earned all of his achievements through hard work and his natural-born talent and to call him a cheater is something he cannot and will not tolerate," Petrocelli said. "None of these defendants have had any evidence to back up the assertion that he has taken performance-enhancing drugs because he didn't. It's very false."
Pacquiao's suit cites various interviews given by the defendants in which they intimated that Pacquiao's strength and power were not natural. Among the interviews cited was an October radio interview in which Mayweather Jr. allegedly said Pacquiao's physique was different "cause we know the Philippines got the best enhancing drugs."
Pacquiao claimed comments by Mayweather, his father, Floyd Sr., and trainer, Roger Mayweather, were part of a defamation campaign against him.
"Mayweather Jr. and the others set out on a course designed to destroy Pacquiao's career, reputation, honor and legacy and jeopardize his ability to earn the highest levels of compensation," the suit contends.
The 2009 suit came as both sides were battling to reach an agreement for a proposed fight between the champion boxers. The negotiations fell apart over demands by the Mayweather camp that both fighters submit to random blood and urine tests leading up to the bout. Mayweather wanted blood tests up to 14 days before the fight, while Pacquiao claimed he feels weak after drawing blood and would not agree to testing within 24 days.