Hero Image

A Fan's Guide to Terence Crawford vs Top Rank

There are few things as consistent in the world of boxing as an ugly break-up between Top Rank promotions and one of their top fighters. So it wasn’t too surprising to learn that Terence “Bud” Crawford had decided to join the ranks of previous Top Rank fighters such as Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and Mikey Garcia in departing the promotion with animosity as first reported by that well-known source of boxing news the… uh… New York Post’s Page Six reporter Emily Smith.

Now, I am not here to drag you through a summation of select excerpts of the complaint. You can find that anywhere from the decent in Jake Donovan’s story on Boxing Scene to the embarassing in Kevin Iole’s Yahoo piece. Rehashing is not what I do, gentle reader; My goal is to offer you insight that you cannot find anywhere else when it comes to the world of boxing and the law. Such as my informative piece on the Deontay Wilder arbitration hearing or my defense of the tactics of Canelo Alvarez’s legal team in his ultimately successful challenge against DAZN and Golden Boy Promotions. Well, I’d have a link for that latter case but if I recall correctly I conducted it on Twitter and I have a habit of deleting my posts when I have been at the bar. But trust me when I tell you that I remain undefeated in my history of an internet boxing lawyer.

While true that as the case stands now there has only been Crawford’s initial statement of claim filed with the Nevada state court in Clark County and a request by Top Rank to remove the case to federal court, we can still glean a lot of information from the statement of claim. And it’s here where one has to wonder, “What is the actual goal of this filing?”. Because in all my years of internet lawyering, I cannot recall a more meandering and unfocused statement of claim.

When it comes to civil complaints, a statement of claim not only serves as the way to initiate a claim but it is to inform the defendant and the courts the facts of the matter at hand. But Bud’s statement of claim is twenty one pages and one-hundred and fourteen points of repetitive and, in several instances, contradictory statements towards the supposed character of Bob Arum, Todd DeBouf and bizarrely enough unnamed John Doe’s one through twenty without detailing in several instances exactly who they believe is responsible for which actions.

Some people have surmised that what Bud’s lawyers are attempting is to pull some kind of Trojan horse where they are waiting for Top Rank to respond or to get to discovery and then they will unleash their real plan. But this is not how the legal world works outside of television. Bud’s complaint is known as a “shotgun pleading” and the federal courts especially have taken a negative viewpoint on such complaints.

For fifty years the courts were informed by a line in the decision of the 1957 Supreme Court case Conley v. Gibson that “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.”. This granted plaintiffs some latitude to make a statement of claim and proceed to discovery without much detailing of the specific factual allegations against a defendant.

But this started to change in 2007 with the ruling of an anti-trust case Bell Atlantic v. Twombly where the Twombly Court instead explained that Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint include facts (as distinct from legal “labels” and “conclusions”) giving rise to a “plausible” (rather than merely “conceivable”) entitlement to relief. Two years later the Supreme Court extended this concept to civil cases with the decision rendered in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.

I know, I know, we are getting into the weeds here but this is what it takes to stand out from the crowd. If you want a stale uninformative take, go read Mike Coppinger.

Decisions made by the Supreme Court are designed to inform the lower courts of the US Federal system and in 2019 the Eleventh Circuit put attorneys on notice when they ruled against an appeal (Barmapov v. Amuial,et al.) when a plaintiff submitted a shotgun pleading and upon leave to amend the complaint the plaintiff just resubmitted another shotgun pleading. The Eleventh Circuit panel identified four types of shotgun pleadings;

  1. Adopting the allegations of all preceding counts, meaning the last count is a combination of the entire complaint.
  2. Using conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts in the counts
  3. Failing to separate each cause of action or claim for relief into a different count
  4. Asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions

Bud’s submitted complaint, while more coherent than the cited case above, still contains elements of all four of these examples. While shotgun pleadings are not automatically going to get a complaint dismissed by a federal court and remain a tactic to confuse a defendant, they need to be well-written. As Chief Judge William Pryor noted in the dismissal “If [the plaintiff] himself cannot offer a coherent explanation . . . we cannot expect the defendants to do it for him by digging through 50 pages and 249 numbered paragraphs of scattershot factual allegations,”.

And while I thoroughly enjoy reading a statement of claim that contains passages such as quoting Dana White saying, “Arum is a piece of fucking shit”(Page 12,number fifty), I do not think crafting a statement of claim in a multi-million dollar action as if you were myself five schooners deep at the bar posting on a Twitter account is really going to get you the results you are looking for.

So in summary, Top Rank might not even have to act first if this case goes to a federal judge. The judge could dismiss the complaint while giving leave for Bud’s attorneys to amend their complaint. If this request doesn’t come from a judge a motion for dismissal is most certainly going to come from Top Rank’s team.

There are other problems with the claims in Bud’s complaint but I think it best to await any further action before examining them in detail. Besides, one really has to wonder if the intent of this filing goes beyond calling Arum racist in the media? Given that the New York Post was the outlet tapped to first report on this filing, it is not too much of a stretch to think that Bud’s attorneys feel the battle is really more to be waged in the court of public opinion and to put the pressure on Top Rank who has to contend with their broadcast partner, ESPN, not looking to take any hits from a prominent black athlete claiming they are supporting a racist businessman.

But this also raises other questions such as, “Why now?”. Bud spent years dismissing the statments of Arum only to wait until after his contract to speak up? Meanwhile, Top Rank continued to sign a crop of high-profile black amateurs who will face the same issues that Bud did in his career,while being trained by the very same man that was supposed to be guiding Bud’s career in Brian Mcintyre. For of all the claims in complaint the one most stepped in fact is that Top Rank does not have any high-level black executives and despite acknowledging that not understanding this fanbase was a cause of their friction with Floyd Mayweather Jr., they have never sought to correct this deficiency.

This however is straying far from the legal realm of arguments based on the law to my personal opinion. I am just disappointed that Mr. Crawford’s business acumen has never been equal to his boxing acumen.