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September 11, 2017

By Scott Shaffer

Late last month, a United States federal court dismissed a group of class-action lawsuits that were filed by fans unhappy with the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view fight in 2015. The basis of the lawsuits were the fans' claims that they would not have shelled out about $100 to watch the broadcast had they known Pacquiao was fighting with an injured shoulder.  Two days after the fight ended, disappointed fans began filing class action lawsuits across the United States claiming that the boxers, their teams and HBO concealed Pacquiao's serious shoulder injury, and that made for a boring fight that they would not have purchased had they known the truth.

Two years later, the lawsuits have been dismissed, with the Court ruling as follows: 

"The Court is sympathetic to the fact that many boxing fans felt deceived by the statements and omissions made by the Fight’s participants and promoters. [But] the proper remedy for such unscrupulous behavior when it implicates the core of athletic competition is not a legal one. 

"Disappointed fans may demand that fighters be more transparent in the future, lobby their state athletic commissions to impose more stringent pre-fight medical screenings and disclosure requirements, or even stop watching boxing altogether. They may not, however, sustain a class-action lawsuit. In this case, Plaintiffs ultimately received what they paid for, namely: the right to view a boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, sanctioned and regulated by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. 

"Plaintiffs had no legally protected interest or right to see an exciting fight, a fight between two totally healthy and fully prepared boxers, or a fight that lived up to the significant pre-fight hype.

"The Court refuses to disrupt the nature and integrity of competitive sports. Assurances that one side will prevail and exaggerated guarantees of stellar performances are both part and parcel of competitive spectator sports (especially fighting sports like boxing). The fact that such pre-event statements are inherently unreliable is precisely why fans even bother showing up to sporting events and tune in en masse—if pre-event statements were entirely reliable, competitive sports would be pretty boring. Concealing specific weaknesses from an opponent prior to an event is similarly essential to the nature of athletic competition. Especially in contact sports such as boxing, athletes will often go into an event with some level of preexisting injury, training deficit, or strategic weakness. 

"Creating a legal cause of action for omissions or misrepresentations that prevent an opponent from exploiting such an injury, deficit, or weakness would seriously impact the nature of athletic competition."

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