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Pacquiao-Mayweather fight — Was the Public Defrauded?

May 2, 2015, the fight many boxing fans had been clamoring for took place.  Dubbed the “fight of the century” between world-champion boxers Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., the fight ultimately turned out to be rather boring and prompted a class action.  Here’s why:

  • April 15, 2015, Pacquaio tears his rotator cuff in his right shoulder while sparring, resulting in discontinuing sparring sessions while in training camp. Sparring partners were sent home with instructions not to disclose the injury to anyone
  • Pacquiao’s head trainer remarks to media that he has “never seen Pacquiao in ‘such pristine condition’” and further boasts that Manny is in “top condition”
  • The CEO of Manny’s promotional company publicly declares Pacquiao is “better than I’ve ever seen him” and tells the public, “you’re going to see the best Manny.”
  • Pacquiao’s trainer states, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, that Manny is training “only with his left arm in order to sharpen the use of his ‘deadly’ left punch and help him improve his footwork.” He further boasts that Manny could “beat Mayweather with is right arm tied behind his back.”
  • Tickets for the fight went on sale on April 23, 2015 and sell out within minutes. Initial prices range from $1,500 to $7,500 though some tickets re-sell on the secondary market for as much as $231,000!
  • Pay-per-view access to the fight breaks the record for the most expensive boxing event in history with commercial establishments (such as bars, etc.) paying up to $10,000 to show the fight at their establishments.
  • May 1, 2015 (day before the fight), Pacquiao signs, under penalty of perjury, the Nevada State Athletic Commission pre-fight medical questionnaire, indicating he had not suffered any injury or serious medical condition of any kind.
  • May 2, 2015, three hours before the fight, Pacquiao’s team asks the Nevada State Athletic Commission for permission to give Manny a pre-fight injection of anti-inflammatory pain medication – the request is denied because no injury was disclosed on the pre-fight medical questionnaire.
  • After the fight, Pacquiao, his trainer, and the CEO of his promotional company, among others, all publicly state that they had known of Manny’s shoulder injury for at least two weeks. Pacquiao also states that he was “not really 100%.”

Plaintiffs consist of a class of ticketholders, alleging misrepresentation and fraud.  They contend that defendants failure to reveal Pacquiao’s injury  was deceptive and misleading and deprived them, and the public, of the ability to make an informed purchasing decision.  Plaintiffs claim they would not have purchased their tickets and/or pay-per-view if the defendants had not made “misleading… statements related to” or omitted material information regarding Pacquiao’s physical condition.  Plaintiffs allege that they and the public “would naturally believe – as they had been led to believe – that they were purchasing the right to see a contest between highly-conditioned, healthy athletes in peak physical condition and not suffering from any disability or serious injury.

Plaintiffs’ case was dismissed by the District Court – the dismissal was appealed.  On appeal, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Legislation upheld the dismissal.

Citing case law, the panel held, “While every competitive sport is built around the presumption that the players will try hard to win, a contest is not invalidated by a player’s poor effort.”

The panel noted that “Plaintiffs acknowledge the weight of authority against them, but characterize themselves as ‘defrauded consumers’ who have suffered a legally cognizable injury rather than “mere ‘disappointed’ sports fans.”

The Judicial Panel ultimately held:

“Plaintiffs in this case paid to see a boxing match between two of the top fighters in the world… Each was medically cleared to fight by the NSAC physicians before he entered the ring… although the match may have lacked the drama worthy of the pre-fight hype, Pacquiao’s shoulder condition did not prevent him from going the full twelve rounds… Plaintiffs therefore essentially got what they paid for – a full-length regulation fight between these two boxing legends.”

In its decision, the Panel noted that, to rule otherwise, could be potentially unworkable.

“The nature of competitive sports is such that athletes commonly compete – and sometimes dramatically win – despite some degree of physical pain and injury.  Taken to its logical extreme, Plaintiffs’ theory would require all professional athletes to affirmatively disclose any injury – no matter how minor – or risk a slew of lawsuits from disappointed fans.”

Do you agree with the ruling?  Were the ticketholders defrauded by the representations of Pacquaio and his team?

See In re Pacquiao-Mayweather Boxing Match Pay-Per-View Litig., (2019) 122 F. Supp. 3d 1372

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