The WBC responded swiftly to a lawsuit filed one week ago Fernando Vargas and his promoter, Main Events. On the eve of Vargas' bout against Francisco Castillejo, the sanctioning body filed a countersuit against both Vargas and Main Events today in federal court in New York. The WBC is being represented by Judd Burstein, who lately has done most of his boxing related work for the WBC's staunch ally, Don King.
WBC president Jose Sulaiman issued a press release today in which he said, “I have the highest regard and affection for… Fernando Vargas as a Mexican.” However, the lawsuit filed today indicates he feels otherwise. The WBC claims that Main Events and Vargas defrauded it out of at least $150,000 in sanctioning fees in 2002 when Vargas fought Oscar De La Hoya. Filed under the RICO statute, the lawsuit says Vargas and Main Events accomplished the fraud by underreporting the portion of the boxers’ purses derived from pay-per-view revenues.
The suit accuses Main Events of essentially the same conduct for the recent Floyd Mayweather-Arturo Gatti WBC title bout and airs out dirty laundry alleging that Main Event bribed the IBF to get Vargas to the mandatory contender spot early in his career. The lawsuit, filed less than 36 hours before Vargas faces recently stripped Castillejo in Chicago, appears to have been timed to cause maximum disruption in the Vargas camp.
Last week, Vargas and Main Events sued the WBC and its president Jose Sulaiman, alleging that the WBC ignored its own rules by refusing to sanction Vargas’ bout against Castillejo for its junior middleweight championship. The WBC stripped Castillejo and allowed two of Don King’s fighters, Ricardo Mayorga and Michelle Piccirillo to contest the vacant title. That lawsuit was filed last week on the eve of the Mayorga-Piccirillo bout and it contained extremely serious allegations that Sulaiman asked promoters to pay sanctioning fees to a family business instead of to the WBC so that attorneys for another boxer would be unable to reach those funds. The lawsuit, which identified bank account numbers and specific payment, alleges that a Sulaiman family business, Controles Graphics, was used to launder money for the WBC. Graciano Rocchigiani had been awarded approximately $30 million in a lawsuit accusing the WBC of stealing his title. The presiding judge in that case, Richard Owen, prohibited the WBC from spending more than $5000 at a time in order to make sure the WBC could not hide its assets. Vargas’ lawsuit accuses the WBC of criminal contempt when the WBC allegedly sent nearly $200,000 to the Japanese Boxing Commission to set up its annual convention.
In the weeks to come, there will be plenty of legal skirmishing as the parties argue over whether Judge Owen should be assigned to this lawsuit, and if Burstein has a conflict of interest due to his prior representation of Vargas several years ago.
In response to the accusation that Main Event bribed the IBF, Main Events' attorney Pat English issued a denial, saying, “that was a case of the IBF committing extortion. [Former Main Events executive] Dino Duva shouldn’t have paid it but it clearly wasn’t a bribe. Vargas was about to fight in an IBF elimination bout and Bobby Lee [the disgraced, corrupt ex-IBF president] threatened not to honor the elimination if he didn’t pay. Vargas didn’t know about any of it and no action was ever taken against Main Events.”