Triller pulls Teofimo Lopez vs George Kambosos, seek mandatory removal
Even before the IBF has ruled on whether Triller Fight Club is in default of its winning purse bid to promote the mandatory defense between unified lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez and challenger George Kambosos Jr. — as Kambosos’ team is seeking — Triller told the IBF it has pulled the fight from its planned Oct. 16 card.
Thorsten Meier, the Triller Fight Club chief operating officer, wrote a letter to IBF president Daryl Peoples and IBF attorney Linda Torres, on Friday, a copy of which was obtained by World Boxing News, in which he made certain demands of the sanctioning organization and notified it that Triller would no longer seek to have the fight on its upcoming show.
“As you are undoubtedly aware, the deadline set forward in our Sept. 30 dated letter has now passed,” Meier wrote. “As such and under all applicable rules and regulations we demand:
“1. Kambosos needs to be immediately stripped of his IBF ranking; 2. An immediate refund of our purse bid deposit; 3. The IBF to set a new purse bid and purse bid date with the next highest contender in the IBF rankings (to be clear, Triller would now have the option, but not the obligation, to decide if we want to bid or not on the same).
“Per our letter, we officially have pulled the Lopez Kambosos fight off our October 16th card as outlined. A letter hereof will be forthcoming from Triller’s counsel.”
The fight has been planned for a variety of dates but has been postponed, including because Lopez came down with Covid-19 a week before it was supposed to take place on Jun. 19 in Miami.
Triller then scheduled it for Oct. 5 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York as the main event of a Triller Fight Club pay-per-view, and then, with both fighters agreeing, Triller moved it to Oct. 4 to avoid a possible New York Yankees home playoff game.
But then Triller boss Ryan Kavanaugh said in an interview with MMA personality Ariel Helwani that he was seeking to move the fight again, this time to Oct. 16 at Madison Square Garden’s rival arena, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, to avoid having it go against a “Monday Night Football” game, and also to pair it with a Verzuz rap battle.
Lopez ultimately signed a contract amendment allowing the move. Triller also came to an agreement with Madison Square Garden to settle their contract, which included the Garden keeping the already-paid $150,000 in rent plus getting another undisclosed six-figure fee for its trouble. Further, Triller claimed it had a deal in place with Barclays Center.
However, Kambosos, who is in his home country of Australia, declined to agree to the move unless Triller agreed to put his purse money into an escrow account to guarantee payment. Triller declined, and when Kambosos did not board his scheduled flight for the United States, Triller pulled the fight from Oct. 16 – even though Kambosos had never agreed to allow it to go there as his contract called for the to take place Oct. 4 at Madison Square Garden’s Theater.
Triller still plans to hold a boxing event at Barclays Center with the planned undercard from Lopez-Kambosos taking place with the addition of popular New York junior welterweight Cletus Seldin (25-1, 21KOs) and a Verzuz rap battle.
Triller doesn’t promote Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) or Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs). But won the rights to put on the bout at a purse bid with a stunningly high offer of $6.018 million to be split 65-35 in Lopez’s favor. Triller, per IBF rules, has already deposited 20 percent of the money with the IBF — $1,203,600— that it is asking the IBF to return.
If the IBF declares Triller in default, as Kambosos’ attorney, Greg Smith, is seeking, citing various alleged contract breaches, the deposit money would be split between Lopez and Kambosos on the same 65-35 split, and the promotional rights to the fight would fall to Matchroom Boxing, which placed the second-highest bid at $3.506 million.
If Matchroom passed, Lopez promoter Top Rank, the only other bidder, would get the rights under its offer of $2.315 million. Top Rank has purposely held back one of its fall ESPN dates to accommodate the fight in case the rights fall to it. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told World Boxing News the date would be Dec. 3 or Dec. 4, although that could be complicated by the fact that Lopez’s wife is due with their first child about a week before that.
The day before Meier wrote to the IBF, attorney Farhad Novian, representing Triller, wrote a much more detailed and hard-line letter to the Peoples and Torres, outlining Triller’s position, a copy of which was also obtained by World Boxing News.
“Enough is enough. While it is known that there is a ‘mafia like club’ within boxing, what has happened to my client (Triller) goes far beyond competitive business practices and will not be tolerated. Earlier this year, Peter Kahn brought to Triller the opportunity to participate in what was touted as a very exciting purse bid for the lightweight championship between Lopez and Kambosos,” Novian wrote.
Kahn is Kambosos’ manager and was later hired as Triller Fight Club’s chief boxing officer while still acting as a manager. Kahn parted ways with the company less than six months later.
“He told my client that he believed that collusion was occurring between various promoters and that they had all agreed to not compete against each other,” Novian continued in his letter. “This fact later came out publicly through emails and other correspondence which have been published in various outlets, which we note the IBF has to date done nothing about. This collusion directly violates the IBF’s rules and regulations, but that is not the intent of this correspondence. My client was encouraged to bid on this Purse Bid, which it did, and ultimately won the bid for approximately $6 million dollars.
“Since that time, while my client has followed every single rule and regulation, and has gone above and beyond, my client has in turn been, ‘milked’, potentially ‘extorted’, lied to, and now, we believe, stuck in the middle of what is nothing more than a political sham involving the IBF, (Lopez promoter) Top Rank, PBC, (Lopez manager David) McWater and others.”
It is unclear why Novian would include Premier Boxing Champions in his correspondence to the IBF as it has nothing to do with either Lopez or Kambosos and did not have a representative bid on the fight at the purse bid.
Novian asserted in his letter that before the Jun. 19 date was scrapped that Triller had “invested out of its pocket more than $10 million dollars cash directly into this fight, and was about to spend another $10M plus, only to find out, during fight week, that Lopez had COVID and was unable to fight. Rather than bring a legal action to recoup its loses, which my client was encouraged to do, because my client was new to the world of boxing and did not want to rock the boat, my client looked to the future, accepted the reality of more than a $10 million loss, and sought for the next ‘right date’ to reschedule this bout.
“In an effort to recoup some of the losses, my client asked that this fight be held in Australia, where it could sell more in venue tickets. The IBF rejected this request and demanded Triller hold the event prior to Oct. 17, 2021. Triller prematurely selected a date of Oct. 4 but within 24 hours learned that this date (would) put this fight in competition with a very popular national Monday night NFL football game.
“Accordingly, Triller immediately presented an alternate date of Oct. 16, well within the IBF’s mandated Oct. 17 date, and confirmed that both Lopez and Kambosos were available (less than two weeks later) on Oct. 16. My client immediately secured Lopez’s signed agreement to fight on the 16th and wired him a $100,000 deposit. Lopez has since not only confirmed his agreement, but also assisted in attempting to procure Kambosos’ agreement, which we were led to believe was forthcoming.”
Novian said that with all of the delays Triller was now out about $15 million in expenses toward the event, though he did not include any receipts or documentation.
Kambosos, of course, had a signed agreement to fight Oct. 4 and his lawyer sought to have Triller put the purse money in escrow. Novian wrote that Kambosos also sought up to an additional $400,000 compensation to agree to move.
Novian wrote in his letter that “we were told the only open item was that Kambosos did not want to pay his manager (Kahn) or promoter (Lou DiBella) and was asking Triller to pay the same, which Triller declined. Triller locked down the venue (in the same city) and paid a significant deposit ($300,000). While we had the single open point with Kambosos (despite the fact his purse is 10x what he had ever previously made in his career), the Kambosos team confirmed he would be on the flight, and this open point was a formality.”
TEOFIMO LOPEZ MILLIONS
Novian also said Triller was “out millions of additional dollars including, but not limited to: paying a termination fee in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to move out of the Oct. 4 venue, moving crews that had been procured to the week of the 16th, and locking down and committing to various artists, announcers, and other promoters. Twenty-four hours ago (on Sept. 29), my client learned that Kambosos failed to get on the flight from Australia to Los Angeles, which my client booked for him at his request. Kambosos did not notify my client, provided no explanation, and went ‘dark.’”
Novian further added that in order to help convince Kambosos to head to New York for the fight that Lopez “both verbally and in writing” offered to give him $150,000 of his purse money “to help make it happen.”
Novian also said that Kambosos asked Triller to change fights for him and his team in order to fight on Oct. 16, but then did not board those flights “nor did he provide any of the information requested of him, including the travel documents he was required to obtain. He has not subsequently explained his failure to board the plane, nor am I aware of any attempt to come to New York for the fight.”
Novian concluded his letter by writing, “We will not let this go quietly into the night but will pursue all legal remedies starting with why the IBF allowed the three major boxing promoters to collude and artificially direct and underprice purse bids. Govern yourselves accordingly.”