[Editor's Note: Boxing Expert Paul Haberman Takes a Look at How Goossen-Tutor Promotions May be Able to Find Its Way Back to Promoting Robert (The Ghost) Guerrero Through Tolling Provisions]
Fresh off a dominant 12 round performance against Malcolm (Stone) Klassen on August 22, 2009 for the IBF super featherweight title, highly regarded American super featherweight Robert (The Ghost) Guerrero, 25-1-1 (17 KOs), walked into another high stakes fight against an opponent that has a far better chance of derailing Guerrero’s career than Klassen ultimately did. The opponent: Guerrero’s former promoter, Goossen-Tutor Promotions, LLC (hereinafter “Goossen”). According to media reports, Guerrero signed a five-year promotional agreement back in 2003 that made Goossen his exclusive promoter until May of 2008. However, during the course of the Agreement, Goossen and Guerrero apparently ran into several problems with each other. The end result of their problems was a December 15, 2008 California State Athletic Commission arbitration award that terminated the promotional agreement between the two parties. Three days later, on December 18, 2008, Guerrero entered in a promotional agreement with Golden Boy Promotions (hereinafter “Golden Boy”).
Within a matter of months, however, the promotional relationship between Guerrero and Golden Boy was disrupted when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert H. O’Brien vacated the December 15, 2008 arbitration award. The ruling, handed down on September 29, 2009, a month and a week after one of the most significant wins of Guerrero’s career, left his promotional status in limbo. From Goossen’s point of view, the vacation of the arbitration award means that it remains Guerrero’s promoter. However, the Guerrero camp’s position is that the Goossen agreement has now expired on its own terms and that the O’Brien decision thus has no effect on the validity of the Golden Boy agreement. The inference is that Guerrero is holding Goossen to a strict reading of their agreement: If it commenced in May of 2003, it terminated in May of 2008. This reading, however, may ignore any number of tolling provisions that might have been written into the agreement that would allow Goossen to extend the term of the agreement upon the occurrence of certain events. An analysis of this possibility follows.
What is a Tolling Provision?
A tolling provision in a contract is a provision that, if its conditions are met, suspends or interrupts the term of an agreement. In boxing, a typical tolling provision allows a promoter to extend the term of its promotional agreement with a boxer in the event of a postponement of a given fight, or in the event that the boxer becomes injured, suspended, or permanently/ partially disabled. This provision is placed in a promotional agreement to help ensure that the promoter has every opportunity to get a return on its investment in a boxer no matter what happens during the term of their relationship. It can have advantages for the boxer too, as it makes certain that he has someone to continue his career with following injuries, personal troubles, suspensions, and other events that keep him out of the ring for appreciable lengths of time. In a sport that contains no league, no player’s association, and few certainties, a tolling provision could mean a preserved opportunity to explore the full potential of a boxer’s career no matter what happens in his life.
How Might Tolling Provisions Factor Into Guerrero’s Situation?
It has been no secret over the past two years or so that Guerrero’s personal life has been in turmoil, as his wife has been battling leukemia. Various news reports have indicated that Guerrero may have taken appreciable time off from training to be by his wife’s side while she received treatment. From the public’s point of view, Guerrero is an admirable family man that is willing to put his personal life before his career. While Goossen might think the same way, and appreciate the presence of such a morally upstanding athlete in its stable, the time off could mean something else to it as well, depending how their agreement is phrased: Guerrero’s promotional agreement was tolled by his family problems. In addition, there may have also been any number of training injuries and other reasons that Goossen saw fit to exercise its tolling provisions. Media reports are unclear on this possibility. Whatever the case, if Goossen continues to allege that it has a valid agreement with Guerrero, they are effectively alleging that a combination of factors contributed to a tolling of their promotional agreement, be it Guerrero’s family time, or injuries, or the arbitration and the time it took to appeal the same.
On the flip side, Guerrero not alleges that the agreement lapsed on its own terms by December of 2008, but also that Goossen failed to get the contracted number of bouts per year for Guerrero, failed to obtain a good faith offer of a bout for Guerrero for more months than agreed to in the agreement, failed to pay Guerrero his contractual minimum purse for his bouts against Spend Abazi and Eric Aiken, and violated the Muhammad Ali Act’s provisions on financial disclosures. While the claims on both sides may be putting them on a crash course to a terrific pissing match with one another, this matter, if its truly about applicable tolling provisions, may come down to little more than whether Guerrero was given proper notice by Goossen that it was enforcing the tolling provisions throughout the contracted term of their agreement. If it turns out that Goossen gave proper notice, and that the tolls that it alleges are cognizable under the terms of the agreement, it may be well on its way down the toll road to making its return to The Ghost’s part of town.
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Punches After the Bell: Kirkland May Survive Shot to Glass Jaw. Following Tysonesque junior middleweight contender James (Stone Cold) Kirkland’s recent receipt of a two year federal prison sentence for purchasing a gun at a gun show while under probation for a felony conviction, his promoter Oscar De La Hoya indicated that he would stand by his man and be there to promote Kirkland at the completion of his sentence. While it is unknown to the author whether Golden Boy placed a morals clause in its agreement with Kirkland, which would have been a sound move given his criminal record, De La Hoya’s pledge is a perfect example of the discretion that a promoter generally reserves for itself under such a clause. Moral of the story: the violation of a morals clause may not necessarily mean the death knell of your career, especially if you have the punch to set your weight class on fire. For more on morals clauses in boxing, please see the author’s previous story on morals clauses in boxing, available Here.
[This article is also available at: http://www.8countnews.com.]
Paul Stuart Haberman, Esq. is an attorney at the New York law firm of Heidell, Pittoni, Murphy & Bach, LLP. He is also a New York State licensed boxing manager and the Chairman of the Sports Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association. ©