DANIEL DUBOIS has been forced to bring a lawsuit against Don King Productions, Inc (DKP) in the state of Florida in order to get paid for his WBA-sanctioned bout with Trevor Bryan.
The facts of the case are straight-forward but detailed. In February, the WBA ordered their secondary heavyweight belt-holder Bryan to face Dubois, the number one contender. After negotiations failed, the fight went to purse bids in March. The WBA determined that the split between the fighters would be 55 per cent for Bryan and 45 for Dubois. DKP prevailed with a winning bid of $3,116,001.00. Dubois entered into a Florida Commission bout agreement with DKP, for a purse of $1,402,200.45. The bout was scheduled for June 11 and held at the Casino Miami.
Dubois easily handled Bryan, knocking him down for the count with a lead left hook in the fourth round – but his fight outside the ring was just beginning.
Dubois waited a week or so to get paid and then went to Robert Smith, the General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, for help. Smith emailed Patrick Cunningham, the Executive Director of the Florida Athletic Commission, making him aware of DKP’s failure to pay Dubois.
Now what was actually owed to Dubois was considerably less than the purse bid amount. For those fans of the Byzantine world of boxing business and finance, this is a doozy.
Out of the $1,402,200.45 gross purse, expenses were deducted, with Dubois’ consent. According to the WBA bout contract that Dubois entered into along with the Florida bout agreement (standard procedure for a purse bid fight), three per cent ($42,066.01) of Dubois’s purse was deducted for WBA sanctioning fees. Dubois, as a foreign national fighting in the US, is subject to US taxes of 30 per cent ($420,660.12). Dubois’s manager also had to pay $1,200.00 for a “WBA Manager Licence Fee” – which Dubois consented to be deducted from his purse. Additionally, Dubois agreed to allow a deduction of $475,000.00 to be paid to DKP in exchange for Queensberry Promotions acquiring the live television rights to the bout for the United Kingdom.
Thus, with a whopping $938,926.13 in deductions, Dubois was owed just $463,274.32 out of the original US $1,402,200.45 purse. But DKP could not even manage to pay him that.
By mid-July, Dubois retained veteran boxing lawyer and litigator Leon Margules to represent him in a potential lawsuit. On July 18, Margules sent a letter to Tony Gonzalez, counsel for DKP, demanding that DKP: 1) pay Dubois the $463,274.32 for the fight; 2) provide proof of payment to the IRS of the 30 per cent withholding tax ($420,660.12); and 3) provide proof of payment to the WBA of the sanctioning fee ($42,066.01) and the WBA management fee ($1,200.00).
The same day, Margules sent a letter to Gilberto Mendoza, President of the WBA, inquiring about the “Warranty Deposit” that was supposed to be paid to them in case of default by a promoter on the purse bid bout.
According to WBA rules, each promoter who wants to bid on a purse bid bout must deposit 10 per cent of their proposed bid in advance. DKP won the bid, and was supposed to have deposited $3,116,001.00 with the WBA as the warranty against defaulting. In the case of default, the WBA was to receive 10 per cent of the deposit and the fighters would split the remaining 90 per cent according to the splits at the time of the bid.
Margules requested from the WBA: 1) proof that DKP had indeed paid the Warranty Deposit and; 2) payment of the sum of $126,198.00 to Dubois – which was Dubois’s share of the Warranty Deposit.
Margules also reached out to the Florida Athletic Commission via its Investigation Specialist, as the commission had already opened an investigation into DKP’s conduct regarding the lack of payment to Dubois.
When Dubois had still not been paid by August 1, Margules filed a complaint in Florida state court, accusing DKP of breach of contract.
Not long after the complaint was filed, the war of words started between the promoters.
On August 3, DKP issued a press release in which King, in classic fashion, responded to the complaint with a triple negative: “I’ve never not paid a fighter and this is certainly not the case here.” The holdup, according to King, is a debt allegedly owed to DKP by Frank Warren. DKP counsel Gonzalez was quoted as saying that “at the instruction of Mr Cunningham [Florida Commissioner], an escrow deposit was made in the amount of $134,000 representing a final balance due to Mr Dubois after applying a setoff of $319,000 for outstanding monies owed DKP by Mr Warren. Also, all sanction fees owed by Mr Dubois were paid in full to the WBA.”
Gonzalez also stated that proof of the IRS payment and the $475,000 UK television setoff were also provided to Cunningham.
On August 5, Frank Warren responded in a very animated interview to IFL TV, in which he excoriated King.
“I have done one show with him in 24 years,” he said. “The last one was 10 years ago. If he’s saying I owe him money – one, why hasn’t he sued me?; and two, sue me if he feels I owe him money. I don’t owe him any money. And even if I did owe him money, which I don’t, I absolutely don’t, what does that got to do with a contract between him and Daniel Dubois? They are the contracting parties, not me. He owes the money to Daniel Dubois. This is all smokescreens. This is the usual bulls**t you get. He should pay the fighter what is due.”
BN spoke to counsel for both Dubois and DKP.
Margules, for Dubois’ part, states that it’s “a simple dispute over a one-page contract between Dubois and DKP.”
He does not believe Warren’s alleged debt to King has anything to do with the suit, but even if Warren owed King money, the claims would not stand up in court because the statute of limitations for any breach of Warren’s obligation has long since run out.
“[King’s] claiming another [$319,000] in credits for money he said that Warren allegedly owes him from as far back as 1999 – which is not a legal obligation anymore. It’s too old for him to bring an action on it,” said Margules.
As of this writing, Margules had also not heard back from the WBA on whether they would pay Dubois any part of the Warranty Deposit from the purse bid.
For DKP’s side, Gonzalez claims that: “Don has made every single payment needed. It all boils down to a dispute between him and Frank. There’s an old debt between them.”
Gonzalez further stated that Frank must pay what he owes before this can be resolved.
This is definitely a situation which makes one wonder how much longer Don King is going to be in the boxing business. This is the second fight involving Bryan that has ended up in a lawsuit against DKP (Manuel Charr also has a case pending against both DKP and the WBA over their actions stemming from the proposed Charr-Bryan fight that was cancelled). King and DKP are currently under investigation by the Florida Commission with a possible suspension looming for not paying Dubois. It’s a sad state of affairs for one of the legendary promoters of the sport.
For Dubois, this is the nightmare scenario for any boxer who has to fight abroad – getting stiffed on payment and having to hire counsel in a foreign country to file a claim. Many had foreseen this potentially happening as King’s reputation for not paying fighters is almost as legendary as his promotional exploits.
“Only in America” will unfortunately have a very sour connotation for Dubois going forward.