By Zach Arnold | November 25, 2013
Several months ago, Andre Ward asked for an arbitration hearing with the California State Athletic Commission to try to get out of his promotional contract with Dan Goossen. Both Ward & Goossen are California licensees. The contract was approved in California. So, it was hard to imagine on what grounds Ward’s camp had for convincing Executive Officer Andy Foster to terminate the promotional contract. Foster ruled in favor of Goossen.
Given Ward hanging out in Las Vegas and being a little bit more chatty to various boxing interviews, one could come up with an opinion that he and his Houston hip hop manager, James Prince, would perhaps be interested in working with Top Rank & Bob Arum. Arum and Goossen used to work together a long time ago.
After that attempt failed, news broke before the weigh-ins of the Andre Ward/Edwin Rodriguez fight in Ontario, California that Dan Goossen received a FAX notifying him that he had been sued by one of James Princes’ associates, Antonio Leonard. Questions immediately were raised as to why such a lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit was filed in a Texas state court in Houston.
Bay Area boxing writer Ryan Marquinana summarized the lawsuit news by noting that Leonard was claiming he had an oral agreement with Dan Goossen to be co-promoters. Leonard claimed that Goossen was going to ice him out as a co-promoter for future fights. The Boxing Scene link includes a link to the PDF of Leonard’s lawsuit filing.
The obvious question to ask here is why Leonard never had a written co-promotional agreement with Dan Goossen. If he had a written agreement, it would have been signed off/approved by the California State Athletic Commission. No written agreement meant no real basis for an arbitration case.
Leonard filed for a TRO (temporary restraining order) against Goossen in Houston. Why would Leonard think he has standing to file suit in Texas given that both Ward and Goossen do business in California? Leonard states in his own lawsuit filing that he is/was/tried to be licensed in California. Then what was he asking for at the arbitration hearing: to void Ward’s promotional agreement with Goossen because he, as a California licensee (or not), failed to disclose an alleged co-promotional agreement with both Andre Ward & Dan Goossen? No wonder Andy Foster ruled in favor of Dan Goossen.
@FightOpinion If Leonard wasn't a co-promoter, why was he listed on any promotional items in previous fights as one?
— Mark E. Ortega (@MarkEOrtega) November 26, 2013
Leonard further claimed that he got his tie-in originally to be a co-promoter of Andre Ward before and after buying out Square Ring Promotions from Roy Jones and that Ward wanted him as a co-promoter, therefore a supposed oral agreement for co-promotion was consummated. When Goossen said Leonard wasn’t his co-promoter, Leonard filed suit in Houston claiming breach of contract.
Punching back twice as hard
In response to Antonio Leonard’s lawsuit, Dan Goossen filed suit against Leonard in Los Angeles Superior Court for declaratory relief. The filing claims Ward & Goossen entered into an exclusive promotional rights agreement on April 6, 2011 and that Antonio Leonard isn’t licensed to be a promoter in California, the business venue where transactions between Ward & Goossen take place.
The filing reveals what happened at the California arbitration hearing. It quotes Andy Foster as stating that it appeared Antonio Leonard “deliberately kept Mr. Goossen uninformed about Mr. Leonard’s discussions with HBO” and that his interference led to a breakdown of relations between Ward & Goossen. The ruling also noted that any claims of co-promotional dealings were unenforceable because they weren’t disclosed and approved by California’s commission.
The Superior Court lawsuit asks for an entry of judgment to declare that any alleged contracts between Goossen and Leonard are null or must be dealt with in the jurisdiction of the California State Athletic Commission. Furthermore, the court is asked to issue an injunction against Leonard for engaging in interference in business matters between Ward & Goossen.
Houston, we have a problem
There was a hearing by a trial judge in Houston on Monday. A temporary 10-day TRO had been given to Leonard and money was kept aside in a trust account. Goossen’s side argued that Leonard was forum shopping. The trial judge removed the case from state court into Federal court. Now the next decision is whether the battle plays out in a Texas Federal court or if it gets pushed to a California federal court. Goossen went the offense after the Leonard suit was filed in order to ask for relief from Leonard’s alleged interference.
Bottom line? Leonard & Prince aren’t on solid legal footing here. The relationship between Ward & Goossen is further strained and yet contractually they are supposed to work together until the end of 2016.