Top Rank wins fight for Nonito Donaire
Top Rank scored a victory Tuesday in its legal battle with rival promoter Golden Boy over the promotional rights to unified bantamweight titleholder Nonito Donaire.
Two weeks ago, Golden Boy signed Donaire to an exclusive multiyear agreement, although Top Rank claimed he was still under contract to Bob Arum's company. On Tuesday, Top Rank announced that arbitrator Daniel Weinstein, a retired judge, had prohibited Golden Boy from promoting Donaire for the duration of Top Rank's exclusive promotional agreement.
According to Top Rank, the ruling paves the way for it to continue promoting Donaire. Top Rank signed Donaire to a three-year promotional agreement in June 2008. The deal, according to Top Rank, also contained a provision for a one-year extension, which it said was exercised last month.
After Donaire scored the biggest win of his career in February, a resounding second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel to collect two 118-pound titles in his HBO debut, Top Rank said it picked up the year extension and began making plans for Donaire's next fight, a proposed May 28 return to HBO against an opponent to be determined. Shortly thereafter Donaire signed with Golden Boy.
Weinstein is very familiar with the ongoing problems between Golden Boy and Top Rank. He oversaw a June 2007 settlement between the companies on a variety of lawsuits, including the one pertaining to the promotional rights of Manny Pacquiao, who was under contract to Top Rank when Golden Boy signed him. Under the settlement, Top Rank retained Pacquiao's promotional rights with Golden Boy due a percentage of the revenue from his fights. The companies are embroiled in a recent lawsuit over that revenue.
As part of the settlement Weinstein oversaw, the companies agreed not to poach each other's fighters. So after Golden Boy signed Donaire, Top Rank took its grievance to Weinstein.
"We are pleased with Judge Weinstein's carefully considered decision," Top Rank attorney Daniel Petrocelli said in a statement. "Top Rank hopes it can put the lawyers and legal fight behind it and return to doing what it does best -- promoting the most talented boxers and the most entertaining boxing matches in the world today."
"I do not comment on pending legal action," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com in an email. Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya also declined comment.
Donaire's manager, Cameron Dunkin, could not be reached for comment.
After Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs) knocked out Montiel, he claimed he was a free agent. At least two promoters, who wanted to remain anonymous, told ESPN.com that they talked to the Donaire camp, but elected not to make him an offer because they believed that Top Rank's agreement with him was still valid. But Golden Boy decided to sign him.
Donaire, 28, a native of the Philippines living in Northern California, is a former flyweight titleholder and interim junior bantamweight titlist. His knockout of Montiel propelled him into the top five on most pound-for-pound lists.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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