New York promoter Cedric Kushner has sued heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman and promoter Don King, seeking to bar Rahman from making his first title defense under King.
In the lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in New York, Kushner contends he still has a contract with Rahman, even though King signed the Baltimore heavyweight to a guaranteed $10 million deal Friday morning.
Kushner claims King coerced Rahman into breaking his contract.
"We filed for breach of contract, tortious interference and injunctive relief. There's not a price tag on it, because the damages are immense," said Richard Edlin, Kushner's New York-based attorney. "There's no question there's been breach of contract and tortious interference. I can't imagine the court finding anything other than that. With the consequences, Rahman's reputation and image can be terribly tarnished."
Neither Rahman, King nor the fighter's co-managers, Steve Nelson or Stan Hoffman, could be reached yesterday. King's lawyer, Peter Fleming, declined to comment yesterday.
At least two other lawsuits have been filed against Rahman and King.
Jud Berstein, lawyer for Lion Promotions, Lennox Lewis' London-based co-promoter with Main Events, could not be reached. But Pat English, the lawyer for Main Events, confirmed Berstein filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of Lewis that charges Rahman and King with breach of contract. Lewis' camp contends that the British fighter is contractually entitled to a rematch after losing his International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council titles to Rahman on April 21.
English said that a judge "set a hearing for Friday, and is considering a temporary restraining order."
King has tentatively scheduled Rahman for his first title defense against Brian Nielsen of Denmark on the undercard of the John Ruiz-Evander Holyfield World Boxing Association heavyweight title bout on Aug. 4 in Beijing.
Shelly Finkel, Mike Tyson's adviser, said Tyson's lawyer also filed suit yesterday. Tyson, who already has a $100 million lawsuit pending against King for a past promotional dispute, reportedly is seeking $75 million for tortious interference.
According to WBC rules, Rahman has until Nov. 11 to face Tyson, the WBC's No. 1 contender.
"I got him the fight [with Lewis]," Kushner said. "There was money tendered and accepted. I'm still his promoter for all sorts of reasons."
However, Kushner's contract with Rahman reportedly expired because Kushner failed to pay the $75,000 required for an extension before the April 21 bout with Lewis - something Kushner denies.
"Prior to the departure for South Africa, Stan said to me, 'We want to be paid when we return to the States, because we don't want to bring thousands of dollars back into the country,' " Kushner said. "I said, 'No problem. I'll pay you everything when we return.' "
After they returned from South Africa, Kushner said, he met with Hoffman and "wrote out all the checks [for] the trainer, the manager and the purse. Then a separate check [to extend the promotion contract] was paid to Stan, and he took it. He received all of the money and signed an accompanying document which acknowledged full receipt of the money, including the $75,000."
Kushner said he was not aware of any change in his relationship with Rahman or Hoffman after that transaction.
"That Tuesday, I went with Stan Hoffman to HBO. And on Wednesday, I went to a parade where Rahman said in front of all those people, 'This is my promoter.' And in New York, during the press conference [the next Saturday], nothing was different," Kushner said.
That was before Rahman decided to align with King last week.
"But when my phone rang at 7 o'clock last Friday morning, Hoffman said, 'I suppose you heard what's happened?' I said, 'Yes.' He said: 'I hope this won't impact our relationship.' My mouth dropped open, because the guy had just told me that he had helped to destroy 15 years of hard work."