Late Breaking

Inside Margarito-Williams

With all the lawsuits flying around our wonderful sport these days, it appears another one is on the horizon.

Promoter Dan Goossen said Tuesday that contracts have been signed for Antonio Margarito to defend his World Boxing Organization welterweight belt against Paul “The Punisher” Williams. Goossen said the fight will take place in either late May or early June, probably
in either Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

Even though Goossen Tutor Promotions last week won the rights to promote this fight by coming in with a winning purse bid of just over $1.5 million, Bob Arum on Tuesday said that Margarito had no right to sign a contract to fight anyone without his permission because he has an exclusive promotional agreement with Margarito.

“There will be litigation filed by the end of the week against Margarito, Goossen, Sergio (Diaz) and Francisco (Espinosa),” Arum said.

And Diaz, who co-manages Margarito along with Espinosa, said that he and the rest of Team Margarito just did what Arum told them to do.

“We’re looking forward to the fight,” Goossen said. “It’s going to be a great fight.”

Goossen spoke via telephone from LAX, where he was about to depart on a flight to New York City. Goossen is promoting a card in Selden, N.Y. on Friday, but he will make a stop at the respective Manhattan offices of HBO and Showtime. As of yet, neither network has been selected to televise Margarito-Williams.

“I’ve got meetings with HBO and Showtime to discuss a few items,” said Goossen, Williams’ promoter. “Showtime obviously enters from the standpoint of having Margarito on that network back in December (against Joshua Clottey in Atlantic City). And Paul’s been on HBO twice. We just want to do the right thing and be fair with the networks with just speaking to them about it.”

Arum’s company, Top Rank Inc., recently announced that Margarito had agreed to challenge Miguel Cotto on June 9 for his World Boxing Association welterweight belt. A move like that likely would have cost Margarito his WBO belt because there is no question that Williams is the mandatory challenger for that title.

Lo and behold, Diaz on Tuesday said that Margarito has indeed signed a contract to defend his title against Williams. It’s a date Margarito won’t be able to keep, Arum said.

“He thinks he is, but he’s not going to,” Arum said. “He has a contract with us, an exclusive contract with us. We didn’t participate in the purse bid because they (Margarito’s co-managers) told us not to because they were fighting Cotto. It may be a done deal as far as (Goossen) is concerned, but these people have no authority to sign a contract because they’re under an exclusive promotional agreement with us.”

When Arum was told that all the contracts for Margarito-Williams had been signed, he said, “Yeah, I’m sure they have been. So what. (Margarito) has an exclusive contract with us, period.”

Diaz does not disagree with that. He said that if Margarito has his druthers, he will finish his career under the Top Rank banner. After all, Margarito has been with Top Rank for eight years. But Diaz said that he and the rest of the team only did what Arum said they
should do.

Diaz said a verbal agreement had been made for Margarito to fight Cotto, but that a contract for that fight had not been signed.

“We did what Bob told us to do, that was to take Paul Williams,” Diaz said. “We weren’t happy with the terms that we were getting for Cotto and he said to go fight Paul Williams, and that’s what we did.”

Diaz said he is hopeful that this doesn’t come to a lawsuit.

“We’re not looking to go into that because we’re not fighting with Bob,” Diaz said. “We’re not fighting with our promoter. We’re not trying to get out of a promotional contract. We’re not trying to fight for another promoter. We’re with Top Rank. Antonio Margarito is a Top Rank fighter.

“But I mean Bob is Bob and he’s upset about this whole thing. But like I said, we just did what Bob actually told us to do, which was to go take a fight.”

Diaz said he and the rest of the team was under pressure to make a decision. He said there was concern that if they waited any longer, bad things could happen. The contracts were signed Monday.

“We had already lost Cotto, but we also could have lost Williams and then with both our hands in our pockets, what do we do next?” Diaz said. “We signed the bout agreement to fight Paul Williams before we actually lost our title and lost that fight.

“I guess if he is going to sue us, I don’t know what to say about that. We’re not signing with a promoter. We’re going to beat Paul Williams and we’re still going to be under Top Rank. We’re not beating Paul Williams and then saying, ‘All right, good-bye, we’re going, we’re leaving.’ It’s not like that. It’s never been like that. We’re with Top Rank and if the terms are good and Antonio is happy,we’re going to be with Top Rank until Antonio decides to retire.”

Goossen, minutes before boarding his plane, sounded confident that this fight will go off without a hitch. He didn’t seem concerned when told about Arum’s promise to take legal action against him and Team Margarito.

“All I can tell you is, Bob’s entitled to do whatever he wants to do,” Goossen said. “We’re proceeding exactly per the WBO rules. Nothing more, nothing less.”