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A Florida judge on Saturday barred former boxing champion Ricardo Mayorga from competing on a Shine Fights mixed martial arts card later in the evening, forcing the entire pay-per-view card at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., to be canceled.
Broward County Circuit Court judge Marc H. Gold ruled Mayorga's participation was primarily because of his notoriety as a boxer and that it thus interfered in Don King Productions' exclusive boxing promotional contract with him.
Mayorga was to fight Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Din Thomas in the main event, and Shine Fights was prepared to go forward with the card despite the judge's ruling, Shine CEO Devin Price said. But hours before the card was to begin, it was canceled by the North Carolina Athletic Commission.
A commission representative could not be reached and Price, who was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at the hearing, said he had not been told the reason. Shine will suffer significant financial losses, but Price said he would compensate the fighters who had trained and were prepared to compete.
"I'm not concerned about the money, quite honestly," Price said. "I feel very badly for the fighters. They were ready to go and we wanted to put the show on (without Mayorga), even after the judge gave Don King injunctive relief. We felt we had a fantastic card that fans would appreciate. The commission, at the last minute and for reasons I'm not sure of, decided to cancel the event.
"We are in the process of working out how the fighters will be paid, how much that will be. But we're a fighter's organization and we're going to take care of them."
King, who has promoted Mayorga continuously since 2001, sought an injunction to bar Mayorga from competing, arguing that his contract covered all combat sports and that King would be irreparably damaged if Mayorga competed in the MMA fight.
Gold required King to post a $1 million cash bond in case Shine wins an appeal and can prove damages. In less than two hours, King brought the money in cash stashed in two duffel bags to the court.
"I felt like Clint Eastwood speeding down the highway with a fistful of dollars," King said.
After more than eight hours of testimony Friday and Saturday, Gold ruled in favor of King, ruling that Shine is guilty of tortious interference and that Mayorga is in breach of contract.
Price declined to say whether he would continue to pursue the case, but seemed to indicate he would not.
"I never, ever wanted to be in the business of boxing," Price said. "I love MMA and we are in the business of MMA. I think what happened is that there is a lack of understanding of MMA. There's not a lot of case law around it."
When King attorney Robert Zarco advised Gold that Shine planned to have Mayorga compete regardless of his ruling, Gold said from the bench, "If my orders are disobeyed, there will be serious sanctions from this court."
Shine had been considering putting the fight on regardless of Gold's decision, but had reconsidered and yanked the Mayorga-Thomas fight. Price was planning to replace it with a main event between Murilo "Ninja" Rua and David Heath. King told Yahoo! Sports that Mayorga owes him several hundred thousand dollars and that he was concerned that if Mayorga were injured in the MMA fight, he would be unable to repay the debt. King also said he is working on arranging a championship bout for Mayorga against World Boxing Association middleweight champion Felix Sturm. Gold said that Mayorga's notoriety as a boxer has helped build interest in Shine's MMA card.
"The question is, why are fans coming to this match? And the answer is because he is a headline boxer," Gold said from the bench. "Boxing and MMA are in competition with each other the way this fight is taking place."
Price said Shine will remain as an MMA promoter and said he's working on a card for the summer.
- Ricardo Mayorga