|In This Corner: Anthony Cardinale Reflects on a Life as a Boxing Lawyer, New York City Boxing History, and The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act
By Pavel Yakovlev (Feb 28, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
boxing is a contentious, conflict ridden industry, as a sport and a
business. Obviously the major fighters and promoters are well known to
the public. Less recognized, however, are the influential boxing
attorneys who fight, settle, or preempt the endless business disputes
arising between industry figures that, ultimately, will make or break
the sport. Boston’s Anthony Cardinale is one such lawyer. Best known as
attorney and advisor to former WBA world heavyweight champion John Ruiz,
Cardinale wears many hats as a lawyer. He has negotiated and litigated a
vast range of boxing legal matters for over 35 years, is regarded as
one of Boston’s most high-profile criminal defense attorneys, and has
defended figures such as John Gotti in federal criminal cases. More
recently, Cardinale played a key role in exposing the unlawful
cooperative relationship between Boston FBI officials and accused
organized crime figure Whitey Bulger. Presently, Cardinale is
representing Bulger’s victims in addition to pursuing his boxing related
son of a New York City pro fighter and trainer who later operated a
restaurant popular with boxing luminaries, Cardinale was literally born
into the sport. Through his family, he has known many major boxing
powerbrokers since childhood. In the following interview, Cardinale
discusses his background, impressions of famous fights, and experiences
as a criminal defense attorney who has handled many high profile cases,
as well as his involvement with John Ruiz. Cardinale also speaks at
length about intricate boxing legal matters such as the Muhammad Ali
Boxing Reform Act, landmark Court rulings that have impacted the sport,
and negotiating boxing contracts related to myriad issues such as
licensing pay-per-view rights, representing fighters in overseas
jurisdictions, and navigating the often delicate balance of
responsibilities that exist between fighters, managers, promoters, and
the organizations that govern the sport.
Pavel Yakovlev: You were born into a boxing family. Can you tell us about your father’s professional career?
My dad was a fighter in New York City during the 1930s and 1940s; his
name was Frankie Cardinal, and he was trained by Freddie Brown. My dad
went on to be a trainer after World War II. He trained a number of
professional fighters, but probably the most notable was Rocky
PY: So you grew up in New York City?
AC: I grew up in Manhattan. My dad was close to Lou Duva, which is why when
my neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen, got real rough in the early 1960s, we
moved to Totowa, New Jersey. Over the years I had a great relationship
with Lou and his family. Dan and Donna were in high school with me. I
also knew Kathy, Dan’s wife, when she was a kid. Because of that
connection, when I got into the fight business as an attorney and
advisor for boxers, we could move in the fight world with Main Events.
Later I started a promotional company that did ESPN fights in New
England with Main Events.
PY: What succession of events eventually brought you to Boston, to practice law?
As a kid, I took up football, and won a sports scholarship to attend
Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, where I was the captain of the team.
We won two Lambert Bowls, which is awarded to the best small college
team in the east. We also won the Timmie award once, which is for the
best small college team in the country with a 32 game winning streak. I
moved to Boston to attend Suffolk University Law School in 1973, where I
graduated magna cum laude and was an editor of the Law Review.
Following graduation, I then worked for five years with F. Lee Bailey.
PY: And it was in Boston that you began to work as a lawyer in the boxing industry?
After I finished law school, I heard from an undefeated heavyweight who
my dad had trained years earlier, but who had quit because, as he put
it, he did not want to end up looking like my dad, who had an Edward G.
Robison face with scar tissue around the eyes and a flattened nose.
Anyway, this heavyweight wanted to make a comeback, and he came to
Boston. Through him, I met the guys in Jimmy Connelly’s gym in South
Boston, including Eddie Connors, Johnny Shea, and others. Then I met and
came to represent Sean Mannion, and through some friends, including Bob
Arum, we ultimately got Mannion a world title fight against Mike
McCallum. Next, the boxers started asking me for help in negotiating
contracts and getting their careers going. I became involved with, for
example, Joey DeGrandis from South Boston, and later Jose Rivera from
Worcester. DeGrandis fought for one world title, and Rivera won two
different WBA titles. While that was happening, I became John Ruiz’s
attorney and had a wild ride through the likes of Don King. Next came
twelve world title fights and two world heavyweight championships. John
and I are still extremely close, almost family.
there anything about your family’s boxing experience that influenced
your eventual decision to become an attorney, especially a litigator?
I never saw my dad box, he was retired by the time I was born, but he
was training fighters throughout my young age, including my brother and
me at times. What I discovered early…was that to be a professional
boxer, you had to have phenomenal desire and hunger. This is something
that was often emphasized by my dad. He would say that, at some point in
a real professional fight, the struggle becomes completely mental and
it is the hungrier guy -- the guy who has the will because he has no
other way to survive -- that will take over. I realized that I did not
have that level of commitment, so I paid more attention to football and
luckily it got me a scholarship to college and a good education.
Regarding being an attorney, when I realized I did not have what it
takes to be a professional boxer, let alone a champion, I decided I
wanted to become a lawyer. In my view, what I do as an attorney,
especially in criminal trials, is very, very competitive and is
sometimes like a boxing match.
PY: What was your first boxing-related legal case?
In the early 1980s, I did a criminal defense case for four amateur
boxers from Jimmy Connolly’s gym in South Boston. They were working as
security in a Boston night spot called The Rat -- it’s actually name was
The Rathskeller -- and were charged with knocking out, literally, an
entire softball team that was celebrating a win one evening, and who
refused to leave the club. When we got to Court, I had my clients, who
were all between 130 and 160 lbs, wear clear eyeglasses and button down
shirts with cardigan or v-neck sweaters. I had the courtroom packed with
a bunch of South Boston neighborhood kids, where my clients lived, and
made them sit in the back with the spectators. I then asked for an
in-court identification. None of the softball players, who were all big
guys from a suburb of Boston, could or would pick out my clients, who
were then declared not guilty. From there, I got to know Sean Mannion,
who was training at Connolly’s gym, and a few other pros. I then began
representing these fighters as an advisor, negotiating contracts, etc.
PY: So, even at that early stage in your career, you could sense the psychological connection between boxing and litigation?
Yes, as I said earlier. Also, what I realized from boxing is that the
effort and training that go into being competitive on a world class
level is astounding…there are probably no other athletes in the world
who have the same level of fitness as championship level boxers.
Litigation is similar to boxing in that it is usually the guy who is
most relentless in his research, investigation, and preparation that
Getting back to your family background, I understand that your father
owned a restaurant near the old Madison Square Garden, and that the
boxing crowd congregated there.
After retiring, my dad and his brothers – he had five brothers, and
three were boxers – opened a restaurant a couple of blocks from the old
Madison Square Garden. The restaurant was Delsomma, located at 266 W.
47th Street between 8th and Broadway. The entire fight crowd would be
there on fight nights. Ring 8 Veterans Boxers Association held their
meetings in the restaurant, so as a kid I grew up around the likes of
Willie Pep, Rocky Graziano, Sandy Sadler, Ray Arcel, etc. Also, Don
Chargin used to come to my family’s restaurant whenever he was in New
York City for a fight, and he had a great relationship with my family. I
probably met Don before I was ten years old.
PY: Can you share any memories or anecdotes about mingling with the fight crowd at Delsomma as you grew up?
Here is a scene from Delsomma's…on the night of the Griffith-Benvenuti
bout, the place was full with the fight crowd. My dad called me over to
speak with Lou Duva, who was there with Rocky Marciano. It was the first
time I met Marciano. I will always remember the size of his hands. As a
high school kid, I played football and wrestled, and went to college on
a football scholarship, so I was not a small guy, but I will always
remember how Marciano’s fist -- especially the bottom part of his palm
-- was twice as thick as mine. All I kept wondering was how it must have
felt to be hit with that fist. Also, that night I met a guy who was
sitting in a rear corner booth, who my dad and Lou introduced to me as
"Mr. Grey," Later, I realized he was Frankie Carbo. That was quite a
PY: You grew up attending most of the boxing cards held in and around New York City?
I did attend regularly through the 1960's and 1970's in New York City,
seeing, for example, Duran's first championship fight against Kenny
Buchanan, as well as Carlos Ortiz, Joe Frazier, and Ali against Frazier
in the new Madison Square Garden. Additionally, I saw many of the fights
that Emile Griffith had at the Garden, including his loss to Nino
Benvenuti – which was a big night for Italians – as well as seeing
Hurricane Carter, Joey Giardello, and many others. Once I got to Boston,
I was at literally every fight there since 1976.
PY: Do you have any anecdotes to share concerning the famous fighters you watched?
I have a couple of anecdotes. I will never forget the look in Duran's
eyes as he made his ring walk for the Buchanan fight…his eyes looked
like they were made of black fire. Another anecdote concerns when Zora
Foley fought the Argentine boxer Oscar Bonavena. I was a big fan of
Oscar's, and I did not think much of Foley. Before the fight, my brother
told me that Foley was good because he had beaten tough Canadian
heavyweight George Chuvalo. I responded by disparaging Chuvalo, and then
my brother started kicking me and motioning over his shoulder. When I
turned around, I saw that George was directly behind me. But he just
smiled and said, "no offense, kid"
As a kid, you must have seen the young Muhammad Ali – then known as
Cassius Clay --fighting at Madison Square Garden. Were you present for
Ali’s controversial win over Doug Jones?
AC: I did see that fight and was shocked when Ali's knockout prediction did not occur, but was glad to see him win it.
PY: Were you personally present at the tragic Griffith vs. Benny Paret fight, and if so, what are your memories?
AC: I did not attend but I watched it on Friday night fights, it was pretty grim.
PY: Did you see Dick Tiger’s fights at Madison Square Garden, particularly with Joey Giardello and Bob Foster?
AC: I saw Tiger box a number of times there, but I was not at either of those fights. Bob
Foster used to eat in Delsomma whenever he fought in New York City, so I
got to know him growing up. He was as wonderful a guy as you could
imagine. The one fight I will always recall at Madison Square Garden was
when Ruben Carter knocked out Griffith in the first round, something I
did not think possible.
Certainly you would have seen the 1970s fighters cultivated by Madison
Square Garden, such as Eddie (Gregory) Mustafa Muhammad, Wilfredo
Benitez, Vito Antuofermo, Harold Weston Jr, Mike Rossman, and Duane
Bobick. Many went on to win world championships. Any impressions or
memories of these guys?
Concerning Antuofermo, my dad trained a kid named Willie Classen, who
fought Antuofermo in what was supposed to be a tune-up for Vito's
upcoming title fight. But no one told Classen he was supposed to be a
“tune up.” I thought along with thousands present that Classen won. When
a split decision against Classen was announced, one of the biggest
riots in Garden history followed…bottles and chairs flying, etc. My dad
was not working with Classen after that fight, so he was not there when
Willie later fought Wilford Scypion. I saw Benitez a few times and I was
very, very impressed. In fact it was that experience that led me to get
one of Benitez’s trainers, Manny Siaca, to train John after the first
Valuev bout. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad was a terrific fighter to watch,
tough and very skilled. I saw Rossman -- and his light-blue trunks with
the Star of David -- several times. A really tough guy.
Do you have any comments about Teddy Brenner, and his tenure as Madison
Square Garden’s matchmaker during the 1970s and 1980s? My understanding
is that he tended to pair up-and-coming prospects with the toughest
available opposition, to ensure the most competitive fight possible.
I knew Teddy more when he was with Top Rank as their matchmaker. He was
a real old school guy who always made fighters earn their way. But he
was nothing compared to my great family friend Don “War-a-Week” Chargin!
A matchmaker from New York City who rose to prominence during that era
is the legendary Johnny Bos. Would you agree that he been scapegoated
for the Gatti-Gamache weigh-in incident?
AC: Johnny is possibly the best friend a boxer could have to advance to
advance his career. That is because of Johnny’s uncanny ability to match
his fighters with competitive opponents who made them look great. He is
a brilliant boxing guy and much deserving of credit. As for the
weigh-in incident, he certainly stood up for his guy and maybe paid a
of course, a fixture at the Madison Square Garden fights in the 1970s
was Malcolm “Flash” Gordon,” who hung around the arena doors hawking his
underground boxing newspaper.
I always enjoyed Gordon and his "newspaper." His “newspaper” was the
precursor to the Internet and always had good insider boxing material.
Your most prominent boxing client was John Ruiz, the WBA heavyweight
champion of the world. How did you first get involved in Ruiz’s career?
AC: When John was considering a promotional change from Panix, who had
Lennox Lewis, he asked me to represent him. We ultimately made a deal
with Don King, as that was our only way to get a title fight with
PY: Concerning your involvement in Ruiz’s career, what was your most rewarding moment?
Obviously, the highlight was the second Holyfield fight, when John
became the first Latino in history to win the heavyweight championship
of the world. That’s an achievement that I think will never be eclipsed.
I mean this both as a personal shared experience with John, and because
I truly believe he will be the first and only Latino world heavyweight
What are your thoughts about the two Valuev vs. Ruiz fights? Many
reporters and fans feel that Ruiz won both matches, particularly the
John clearly won the first bout. Even the German crowd went completely
nuts with disgust when the majority decision was announced. John said it
was the easiest title fight he ever had. As for the second bout, a
split decision loss, again, John definitely was the more effective
fighter, and had a knockdown in the second round which was not called,
in my view. John almost scored a knockdown again in the 11th. That is
also the fight where we believed we saw Sauerland's people illegally
sending in the scores from the judges to Valuev's corner. Because of
this, Valuev’s corner told him to stay away from John in the 12th, because they knew Valuev was ahead on points. We got another title shot as a result.
For two of Ruiz’s controversial losses in Germany, Stanley
Christodoulou served as an official. Dating back to the 1970s,
Christodoulou has been criticized as being a WBA “house referee.” Did
you have any concerns about Christodoulou?
Stanley is probably one of the best referees who ever worked in boxing.
I would never try to block him from participating as a referee. Rather,
I would lobby for him.
In researching your career, I came across an interesting news article
from years ago describing a verbal showdown between you and Lou Duva.
The issue was whether Duva’s fighter, Kirk Johnson, deserved a rematch
with your client, John Ruiz.
There was no showdown between me and Lou, who is like my surrogate dad.
The confrontation was with the fighter himself, Johnson, which ensued
after I destroyed him and his arguments for a rematch against John Ruiz.
This happened at the WBA convention in Washington following the fight.
After the arguments -- where I made Johnson look like the piece of crap
he was for fouling out of the fight to avoid being knocked out by Johnny
-- he confronted me in the lobby and it was quite a scene.
You are currently an advisor to Sergei Liakhovich. Sergei’s recently
scheduled fight with Eddie Chambers fell apart under controversial
circumstances. Care to comment?
Well, naturally we were not at all pleased that Eddie waited a week
before claiming he had x-rays that showed fractured ribs. By that time
there were only seven days left before the premier of the NBC Sports
boxing telecast. That was not enough time to find a suitable opponent
for Sergei, something that I put before the Pennsylvania commission to
PY: I understand you have defended some very famous organized crime figures. Any comments?
In my career I have represented many individuals who were accused of
criminal behavior, and yes, some have been so-called organized crime or
La Cosa Nostra figures. I always looked at it like this: I am a criminal
defense attorney, and if someone who is alleged to be involved in the
most serious crimes seeks my services, I take that as a positive thing
for me professionally. In my career I have represented Gerry Angiulo,
who was alleged to be the head of the LCN in Boston, and Tony Salerno –
who was the alleged head of one of the five LCN families in New York --
in the so-called “Commission” case. I was also a member of the defense
team when John Gotti and Frank Locascio, among others, were tried in the
1990's. My legacy, though, is uncovering the FBI’s misuse of its "top
echelon" informant program. In Boston, the FBI basically gave Whitey
Bulger and his partner, Steve Flemmi, immunity for their crimes, and in
fact aided and abetted them in several murders, all detailed in several
books including “Black Mass,” by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill.
Sounds like a very tough crowd. Did you ever meet the likes of Roy
DeMeo, Anthony Senter, or Cesar Bonventre? Even though these guys date
from the 1970s and 1980s, their names have garnered widespread
recognition in recent years because of the spate of mafia non-fiction
books published this past decade.
I was involved in the “Commission case” I met Cesare Bonventre, who was
then on trial in the so-called "Pizza Connection" case. He reminded me
of the guys who were Michael Corleone’s bodyguards in “The Godfather.”
He was a handsome guy with a pretty distinct aura of danger. He was on
trail in the so-called “Pizza Connection” case at the same time the
“Commission” trial was going on.
PY: I have read Jerry Capeci’s books about that generation of mafia figures. What do you think of Capeci’s books?
AC: Jerry is a friend, and his books are good.
As you pointed out, one of your defense clients was John Gotti. In the
1990s, in defense of Gotti, you cross-examined Sammy “The Bull” Gravano,
who was then a federal witness.
AC: Preparing to cross-exam Gravano was like getting ready for a championship
fight…in terms of the importance and the pressure. Going into court the
morning that I was to start my examination was like walking to the ring
before a big fight.
PY: During these cases, you must have crossed swords with legendary federal prosecutors such as Walter Mack and Rudy Giuliani.
Mayor Giuliani was the US Attorney who put the “Commission” case
together, where the heads of each of the so-called five families of New
York City were on trial. While he did not try the case day to day, he
made occasional appearances.
When names such as Gotti and Gravano come to mind, I think about the
old Ravenite Club, on Mulberry Street. Were you ever inside the
When I was involved in John Gotti's case, I was at the club, and the
building, as part of the defense preparation because I wanted to see the
areas in which the government had placed bugs to capture the
conversations. Those areas were a back hallway outside the club on the
first floor, and an apartment in the floors above it.
On a light-hearted note, I will end the mafia questions by saying that
they allegedly had a great espresso machine in the Ravenite. Is it true?
AC: I am sure it’s true, because John Gotti had over 20 cups of espresso every day, many of them from that machine.
Judd Burstein, a noteworthy criminal defense lawyer with a legal
background similar to yours, states that he was motivated to become a
boxing lawyer because of the epidemic of coercive contracts that exist
in the sport. In other words, fighters are vulnerable to signing
contracts that they do not understand, and that often work heavily to
their disadvantage. Are your motives similar to Burstein’s?
As I said, I agree with Judd in this area. Addressing this problem is
primarily the purpose of the Muhammad Ali Act, and it motivates us to
protect boxers from those who hold all the power. The field is leveled
when the promoter or organization know that there is an advocate in the
boxer's corner who has had a lot of experience in complex
litigation. And, I will add, that advocacy can be important to managers
or promoters who sometimes have issues with boxers or with
PY: Have you had experience dealing with the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act?
Yes. The most important thing any advisor to any party in the sport can
possess is complete familiarity with the Act. The downside is that
there are precious few decisions from courts dealing with its
provisions, and therefore, there is little legal precedent to follow
that explains the nuances of the Act's language. The upside is that it
is, for the most part, written in straight-forward language which makes
its application clear. So, you know when it has been violated.
Interestingly, there are many industry figures who believe that the Act
has little practical value, and that it is unenforceable. Any comments?
I think that the Act is perhaps the most important legislation in the
business, particularly because of some of the comments you attribute to
Judd. Boxers are usually from a background that makes them particularly
vulnerable to the sharp practices of some people in this industry, so
the fighters need all the protection and assistance they can get. What
is more important, is that the boxers know what their rights and
protections are under the Act, and what roles managers and promoters can
legitimately play with respect to the boxers’ careers. The bottom line
is, that fighters should have someone they can rely on to protect their
rights, and certainly, someone to give them the correct advice before
they sign any agreements.
As best as I know, so far, the United States Department of Justice has
not taken action to enforce the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, to show
that it has teeth. Any comments?
Overall, that is a good thing. It implies that the parties affected by
the Act are, for the most part, doing the right thing. In a sense, it
shows that attorneys like Judd, Pat English, Michael Miller, Jim Thomas,
and others are successful in privately enforcing the Act. Remember,
when you have an attorney with the training and legal experience to have
dealt with, for example, taking on the entire FBI in criminal cases,
then dealing with promoters or associations who intentionally violate
boxers’ rights is no big deal. This is something that I have directly
stated to my opponents in boxing related cases.
A landmark boxing legal case was Graciano Rocchigiani’s lawsuit against
the WBC for fraud. In 2003, A New York City federal court jury ruled in
favor of Rocchigiani, who was awarded $31 million in damages and
penalties. This verdict very nearly put the WBC out of business. What
are your thoughts about this case?
What that did was to make everyone in the business realize that there
can be serious consequences for failing to follow the rules: especially
the rules that the organizations have put in place to keep things fair,
such as mandatory challenges, etc. That case served to level the
playing-field for everyone. Although I must say, I was personally sad
for Jose Sulaiman, who is a friend and someone I respect greatly.
Tilelli v. Christenbery (1953) is another very famous boxing court
case. The issue was that a state commissioner altered a ringside judge’s
scorecard after the bout, reversing the decision originally awarded to
Joey Giardello over Billy Graham. Giardello subsequently filed suit, and
the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the original decision
favoring Giardello should stand. Any comments on the precedent this case
set in boxing?
Again, anything that makes it clear that the rules are to be followed,
and establishes fairness in this rough and tumble sport, is great for
it. I will add that the same thing happened to John in the second Valuev
fight. That’s when the Japanese judge went back and changed his card --
from a draw to a win for Valuev -- by claiming that he mistakenly put a
“ten” on John's side of the score sheets for the 12th round,
when he really meant to score it for Valuev. This he claimed after
having entered the correct scores for 11 rounds. Since this kind of
thing led to a loss, it could have affected John’s placement in the
rankings, and therefore his chance for a title shot, so it was important
to us to have that reversed…which the WBA did following the bout.
Many boxers are victims of flagrantly unfair decisions, verdicts rooted
in officials’ tendency to lean in favor of the promoter’s fighter (the
“A” side boxer). In the aftermath, I often hear that the losing fighter
and his manager wish they could seek relief in a court of law,
anticipating that an administrative complaint to a boxing commission
will be duly rejected. Do you foresee a time in the future when these
fighters and managers will have recourse through civil suits?
What people do not realize is, just how expensive it is to mount a
legal challenge after such things. You are talking about six figure
expenses. So the stakes have to be very high to justify litigating such a
case. The problem is that identifying the winner is so subjective and
specialized that it is a hard argument to make to lay persons, although
frankly, you could show a fight to 12 disinterested people and most of
the time they would pick the winner. However, the good news is that
every organization has rules to cover situations where there has been a
controversial decision. For example, when John Ruiz lost the majority
decision to Holyfield in their first bout, a fight where everyone
watching believed John had won at least eight or nine rounds, we
petitioned the WBA for an immediate rematch and won the argument. That
is a much cheaper way to go than court, and if a fighter has a
legitimate argument, he’ll usually find a good jury of knowledgeable
officials from the organization to present his case. That has always
been my experience with, for example, the WBA, whose directory from
which they select their hearing panels is to a member experienced, very
knowledgeable and extremely fair.
Have you ever been involved in negotiating pay-per-view contracts, on
behalf of a fighter or a promoter? If so, what potential pitfalls do you
look for, and preempt, for your client?
I have done both a few times, and most importantly you have to protect
the boxer from getting short ended. Every fighter's advisor should know
what his revenue splits should be from the pay-per-view, and remember
about the auxiliary revenue streams such as the rights fee for the
replay, etc. When all of that is taken into consideration, along with
the other revenue streams such as the site fee, international sales, and
sponsorship fees are considered, then an advisor can protect the
fighter's interests. While certainly the promoter who is taking the
financial risk deserves to be compensated, the fighter is the one
risking everything to put eyes on the television screens and people in
the seats, and he should be fairly compensated for that.
Do you have experience negotiating licensing agreements for the
broadcasting of fights? What are your thoughts about the complexities
involved in these contracts?
Everyone who represents fighters should know -- BEFORE negotiating any
bout contract -- what the fees are going to be for all revenue streams,
and when it’s necessary to negotiate with the broadcaster directly to
try to maximize the amounts. Again, the promoter is the first line and
is interested in getting top dollar, but that does not mean that the
fighter and his advisor are potted plants, just sitting there waiting to
be told what their amount is. If you have a fighter who is a good draw,
the broadcasters should pay for it.
What have you learned about the interface of boxing and law from
representing fighters and/or promoters in disputes with sanctioning
organizations, domestically or internationally?
The one thing that my experience has taught me is that you can have no
interface if the fighter or promoter has insufficient experience dealing
with the organizations, lacks knowledge of their rules and prior
precedents, and doesn’t have the organization’s respect. When the
organizations respect the advocate, and believe that he is not simply
creating controversy for its own sake, but that he has a legitimate,
sound legal position, that’s when the advocate can really protect his
client in all aspects of the business.
PY: What experience do you have handling boxing legal issues in promotions staged through Native American tribes?
When John Ruiz fought Holyfield in their third bout, after the fight
Holyfield's advisor Jim Thomas brought up a claim concerning the
commission, which in this case was the tribe at Foxwoods Resorts Casino.
So, I have had that type of experience. Usually the native commissions
are run by very good and knowledgeable people, or they agree to let the
local state commission assume that role.
PY: How much of your boxing legal work involves dealing with tortuous interference and consequential breach of contract?
This question is getting into too much to explain in a short answer.
Generally, litigation in boxing is related to contract issues and breach
thereof. Tortuous interference is something less often seen, but it
does come up now and again. Unfortunately, fighters are constantly
barraged by people who really have no cause to be "pissing" in his ear,
as I like to call it.
What are the pros and cons of fighters, managers, and/or promoters
seeking to resolve their legal problems through administrative hearings,
The pro regarding arbitration is that it is usually, but not always,
cheaper and quicker than resorting to the courts. The more involved and
complicated the issue, then perhaps the administrative hearings and
arbitrations are better because you don't have to spend the time -- and
most importantly, the money -- necessary to educate a judge who,
although smart and capable, is going to be immersed in a very
specialized field for perhaps the first time in his or her life.
PY: What difficulties have you encountered in representing American boxers overseas?
AC: The primary difficulty is when, in negotiating on behalf of a fighter –
or his promoter -- who is going to fight in another country, his
representatives do not take the appropriate steps in advance of the
bout. For example, consider when Sergei Liakhovich recently fought in
Germany against Helenius. In advance of the fight, Team Sauerland had to
deal with me on behalf of Sergei, and with Pat English on behalf of his
client, Main Events. Needless to say, before we even arrived in
Germany, we made sure the officials were agreed on, that we agreed on
the choice of gloves, etc.
Have you ever been in a position where you have had to defend your
client against an adverse ruling issued by an overseas court of law?
Yes. One issue we had to deal with was a foreign ruling on a tax matter
regarding one of John's bouts with Valuev. Together with Judd, we got
the Federal Court in New York City to agree with us.
PY: Do you have experience representing boxers who licenses have been unfairly suspended?
That is pretty expansive…the term "unfairly." If there are grounds for a
suspension, it is rarely a situation that can be remedied, so sometimes
you focus on the length of the suspension. I have been asked to
represent fighters who have been suspended for acts during and after a
bout. Again, it is usually a question of mitigation.
Have you ever represented a fighter whose career has stalled because he
is resisting his promoter’s attempts to force or coerce him into a bout
that is not in best interests, and which he resists?
That seems to be a specialty of mine. For example, I recently
represented a fighter who had grounds to get out of his contract with a
manager who did not fulfill the activity clause of his contract, and who
then went on to an HBO fight. I have also dealt with many fighters who
were not being treated right by their promoters on activity grounds, as
well as other unfair dealings by the promoter. For example, when a
promoter will not permit a boxer to fight anyone but another boxer under
contract, or a promoter who keeps a fighter idle simply because he has
no dates to use all the fighters he happens to have under contract.
Unfortunately, these things happen in boxing all too often in this
If an American fighter signs a promotional deal with a foreign
promoter, is it realistic to demand that the contract be subject to
American law, and in the event of a dispute, resolved in an American
court of law? Would the foreign promoter have to be registered as an
American corporation for these conditions to apply?
AC: A fighter in that situation should always have an advisor who can
negotiate the best possible deal on the fighter's behalf. The choice of
court in which to deal with disputes can be established in the contract
with the promoter. As long as the promoter agrees to the forum, then per
contract, he is bound to resolve disputes in that forum regardless of
whether his firm is an American corporation. Once agreed in contract,
that’s a done deal. Similarly, although the Muhammad Ali Act has no
legal effect anywhere outside of the United States, the advisor can
insist on including the Act’s clauses in the contract, which would
provide similar protections. Again, this is an area in which the right
advisor can make a huge difference in protecting a boxer.
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