LAS VEGAS – Top Rank has won the first hurdle in the battle for the rights to promote burgeoning superstar Nonito Donaire.
Arbiter Daniel Weinstein, a retired California Superior Court judge, ruled Monday that Golden Boy Promotions violated a previous agreement with Top Rank not to poach each other's fighters when it signed Donaire, the World Boxing Council/World Boxing Organization bantamweight champion, to a promotional agreement on March 16.
Weinstein told the parties of his decision on Monday and is expected to release his ruling in writing shortly.
"We had arbitration pursuant to an agreement that exists currently between Top Rank and Golden Boy that various disputes must be arbitrated in front of the honorable Daniel Weinstein," Top Rank attorney Daniel Petrocelli said. "He heard our petition that Golden Boy had violated an agreement between Top Rank and Golden Boy in signing Donaire to a promotional agreement, even though [Donaire] was still under contract with Top Rank.
"The judge agreed that Golden Boy had violated the agreement and issued an order that Golden Boy is enjoined, restrained, from purporting to promote Donaire at this time. They can not proceed under that contract at this time."
Golden Boy signed Donaire after Donaire had declared that he was a free agent and available to sign with the promoter of his choice. Donaire filed suit in a Nevada court alleging that he is free of Top Rank, but Top Rank contends that is not the case. Petrocelli said Top Rank has yet to be served with Donaire's Nevada lawsuit.
Reached by telephone, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who is currently traveling the continent on a promotional tour, said the company is not yet ready to respond to the decision. "I'm on the road, and I'm not in a position to comment right now," he said.
Top Rank signed Donaire to a three-year contract with a one-year option on June 26, 2008. But Donaire was on medical suspension for more than 300 days in the first year of the contract. Top Rank says there is a clause in its contract with Donaire that adds time onto the contract whenever a fighter is unable to perform because of suspension. That time clause is common in many fighters' contracts.
As a result, Top Rank claims that its three-year contract thus runs into early June 2012 and that the one-year option, which it exercised, takes Donaire into June 2013.
Weinstein's jurisdiction is a result of a settlement that Top Rank and Golden Boy agreed to in 2007 in a case involving the rights to superstar Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao signed a contract with both Golden Boy and Top Rank and the sides sued each other. They agreed to arbitrate the dispute with Weinstein, who ruled that Pacquiao belonged to Top Rank but that Golden Boy was entitled to a share of profits from Pacquiao fights.
Golden Boy since has filed a federal lawsuit against Top Rank, alleging Top Rank underreported income on Pacquiao fights and owes it additional monies. That suit is still making its way through the system. But as a part of the Pacquiao settlement in 2007, Top Rank and Golden Boy agreed to let Weinstein arbitrate any disputes that arose between them.