Controversial fight promoter Don King, who was acquitted in July of insurance fraud, has been sued for $12 million by rival promoter Cedric Kushner for trying to "steal" heavyweight contender Hasim Rahman of Baltimore and interfering with other fighters under Kushner's control.
Rahman, 28-0 and ranked No. 3 in the world by the International Boxing Federation, had been scheduled to fight David Tua last Saturday as HBO's co-feature on the Lennox Lewis-Zeljko Mavrovic championship card in Uncasville, Conn.
In a suit filed Monday in the Southern District Court of New York, Kushner accuses King of bribing Rahman to withdraw from the Tua bout by paying him $125,000.
Rahman, co-manager Steve Nelson and Kushner contend that King used threats and intermediaries to persuade Rahman to withdraw and to sign a contract with Don King Productions, Inc.
"The question is whether or not King paid Rahman $125,000 to break his contract and not fight Tua," said Richard Edlin, Kushner's New York-based attorney.
King was personally served with court papers in New York yesterday where he was in court on another legal matter concerning the disputed contract of IBF welterweight champion Felix Trinidad, who recently signed with Main Events, Inc. King was not available for comment.
An apologetic Rahman, reunited with Kushner, who has promoted 20 of his professional bouts, said King gave him a check for $125,000 and encouraged him to fake an injury that would cancel the Tua match. In a match that was to decide the best of the young heavyweights, Rahman had been guaranteed $275,000 and $25,000 in training expenses.
"I feel as if a load is off my shoulders and I'm ready to fight," he said. "I know I made a mistake and I'm trying to go on with my career."
Rahman said he signed with King after the Florida-based promoter said he controlled the world rankings and the fighter would never gain the No. 1 mandatory ranking without his blessing. In the lengthy court brief, Kushner contends that King had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act. He said that King's "schemes involved more than two acts of mail and wire fraud and acts of sports bribery."
Specifically, he charges King with violating state laws relating to extortion by claiming Rahman would never be ranked No. 1, and threatening to sue Rahman if he did not break his contract with Kushner.
In an interstate phone call Aug. 26, Kushner claims, King told Rahman that Main Events, Inc., the promoter of his match with Tua, had conspired against him to fix the fight and that the only way he could win was by a knockout.
Kushner further alleges King had told Rahman that King controlled a "high-ranking boxing official of a major rating organization and would be incapable of achieving the No. 1 ranking unless he signed with King."
Rumors began to circulate several weeks before the scheduled fight with Tua that Rahman would withdraw. He had left his training camp in Phoenix Aug. 23.
The suit claims that a day earlier, Hasan Murphy, of Baltimore, who is one of King's attorneys, called Rahman and told him to get in touch with the promoter.
The two met in Baltimore Aug. 23, at which time, Kushner says, King told Rahman that taking the Tua fight was not in his best interest.
Later that week, at King's expense, Rahman flew to Las Vegas meet again with the promoter, at which time he received a $125,000 check, Kushner says. Rahman then ended any pretense of training seriously for challenging Tua.
As a result of withdrawing from the fight, Rahman would be banned permanently from appearing on the cable network, said Lou DiBella, HBO vice president of marketing.
"As far as I'm concerned, Hasim Rahman no longer exists," DiBella said at the time.
Peace was restored yesterday after DiBella met with the fighter and Nelson and Rahman apologized for his actions.
"Everyone kissed and made up," said Nelson, who said he hopes Rahman will return to the ring by November.
Added Kushner: "This is a young man who has been under a lot of stress because of Mr. King's actions. But now he is more relaxed and just wants to resume his career."
At Blue Horizon, Philadelphia (ESPN2), Thomas Tate, Houston, vs. Demetrius Davis, Baltimore, 12, for Tate's NABF super middleweight title; Andrew Golota, Poland vs. Tim Witherspoon, Philadelphia, 10, simulcast from Poland, heavyweight; Billy Irwin, Canada, vs. Gerald Gray, New York, 8, lightweights; Sammy Ahmad, Philadelphia, vs. Tyrone Frazier, Atlantic City, 8, light heavyweights.
At Players Island Casino, Lake Charles, La. (USSB), Oleg Maskaev, Kazakstan, vs. Toakipa Tasefa, New Zealand, 10, HWT; Derrick Banks, Detroit, vs. Jeff Wooden, 10, Fort Bragg, N.C., HWT.
Pub Date: 9/30/98