By Jeffrey S. Fried
As an attorney practicing in the professional boxing (and sports) industry for the past 15 years, there appears to be a practice more prevalent in the sports field than in any other business industry. I am referring to the rampant gossip, innuendos and false and misleading information disseminated by various individuals about those with whom you transact business, and quite possibly even about you! Some within the boxing industry undertake this questionable practice to create havoc in the industry, others possibly to appear knowledgeable about certain deals, while others have a more suspect intent to create confusion (and potential sabotage) for his or her competitors.
There is an unfortunate “norm” in boxing whereby people doubt anyone else’s word, unless they have a longstanding relationship based upon mutual respect, trust and confidence. Even in those circumstances, at times, colleagues and associates of many years never fully accept a statement without considering the personal agenda of the other party.
So whom can you rely upon in boxing?
When considering a commercial relationship, whether it be selecting a promoter, manager or attorney -- or even which television network with which to associate, there must be some fundamental principles to follow. There must be trust, a mutual trust, even in those relationships that do not rise to the level of a so-called “fiduciary relationship.” Such trust can be developed (over time), and possibly initially relied upon from third parties with whom you have a longstanding relationship (thereby a trusted colleague of someone you admire and trust can then be your trusted colleague, at least at the outset). In any event, do your own research and learn about the other party with whom you are entering into a commercial relationship -- ask questions and get answers, not only lip service but by example.
There is no substitute for spending time together with those whom you are relying upon as part of a team to further a professional career, and dealing with a variety of situations (both positive and negative circumstances!!). “Yes” people, while serving an element of encouragement, are not always the right people. No matter whom you select, be certain that you will “hear” something negative about your choice. Go with your gut and rely upon your own experiences with your chosen professional, and not the “rumored” experiences of others. Not always so easy.
What does this all mean to those involved in the sport of professional boxing? Many have prided themselves on attempting (I say attempting, as opposed to achieving) to create relationships of mutual respect, trust and confidence whereby when we communicate with a boxer, a television executive or a promoter, they can rely upon what we have communicated. I have taken pride in ignoring participation in the gossip game (I am a firm believer that the listener of such nonsense is, in essence, a participant). As my friend Rex Walker of the WBC/NABF reflects on the “Things I Have Learned,” -- the phrase “It’s none of my business” is always followed by “but.” Try and forget the “but.”
Such energies should be placed on generating the business news, by simply making good deals and representing clients zealously and with integrity. Nevertheless, rumors, innuendos and false and misleading information will always be communicated by “those within boxing” in an effort, at a minimum, to cloud an issue and, at times with unscrupulous means to achieve a specific commercial goal for their benefit -- no matter the (integrity) cost. This type of unnecessary use of negative energy is applied by many in the industry, and even among those that have achieved the highest level of commercial success. Some may say it is a defensive tool, while others may argue that it is an intentional vehicle of deception. It places a legitimate business person in the unenviable position of disproving a negative, which is difficult for anyone in any business. Moreover, not many have the resources to defend such tactics from a legal viewpoint in a potential tortious interference claim.
Gossip, innuendos and false and misleading information is like “death” and “taxes,” a certainty!! There are those within the boxing industry that seem to do nothing all day but partake in such activity (how they pay their bills is beyond me!). Nevertheless, if there is one recommendation that I would put forward for professional boxers considering contractual relationships, whether it be with a promoter, television network, manager, attorney, etc., it is to develop your own trust and confidence with the professionals that you associate, because one thing that is certain is that you will receive, on a recurring basis, information attempting to persuade and convince you that whatever decision you made was the wrong one!! Probably, the best advice one can give is to consider the source of such information!!
In summary, the following should be considered:
1. The dissemination of rumors, innuendoes and false and misleading information within the boxing industry will last far beyond your career in this sport.
2. Build your own level of trust, respect and confidence with the professionals with whom you transact business and become part of your team.
3. Initially, it may be appropriate to rely upon the advice of those that you have a longstanding relationship based upon such trust, respect and confidence.
4. Do your own research and be comfortable with your decision as you look forward. Spend time with your selected commercial colleague in all types of business situations (positive and negative!!).
5. Consider the source of the information you receive about others.
Jeff Fried is President of Fried & Company, P.C., a Washington, D.C. based law firm that represents a wide variety of sports and entertainment interests, with an emphasis in the area of professional boxing through representation of promoters, managers and select professional boxers.