LAWYER SUES PACQUIAO'S U.S. PROMOTER

MANILA, January 5, 2004  (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - The lawyer who introduced uncrowned world featherweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and his business manager Rod Nazario to US promoter Murad Muhammad three years ago is furious after being eased out of the fighter’s inner circle.

Worse, San Francisco-based lawyer Sydney Jay Hall no longer earns seven percent of Pacquiao’s purses — like he used to — and was recently ridiculed by Muhammad in a magazine article for shopping the hard-hitting southpaw to four US promoters until he came along.

Muhammad, who once worked as a Muhammad Ali bodyguard, has claimed exclusive credit for Pacquiao’s rise to stardom. "If not for me, no one would know of Pacquiao," said Muhammad, quoted by Ivan Goldman in World Boxing Magazine. "One reason Rod signed with me is I told him, I pull miracles."

Hall sued Muhammad, Nazario and Nazario’s son Roberto for "accounting, tortuous interference with contract, violations of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act and exemplary damages" in San Francisco last November and told The STAR the other day he would only consider withdrawing the case for a settlement of $180,000, an extension of his contract to share in Pacquiao’s purses for another year and other undefined "perks."

Hall said he is in the process of filing a motion to withhold $200,000 from Pacquiao’s next purse as a pre-judgment lien and expects a favorable court ruling in two months.

"It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to go to court," said Hall. "My conscience is clear. My soul feels light. I don’t think I can be beat in court. This is going to be a significant victory for all fighters because I’m addressing the issue of exploitation."

Hall explained that he was never an investor in Pacquiao’s US campaign. "I helped these folks out," he continued. "Rod put me on a strict time constraint to get Manny a contract to fight in the US. I got the job done. Now, after all is said and done, people seem to have forgotten my name."

Hall, a frequent Manila visitor, said he is concerned that Pacquiao has not paid taxes on his US earnings since wresting the International Boxing Federation (IBF) superbantamweight crown from Lehlo Ledwaba in Las Vegas in 2001.

"Pacquiao’s people went to this accounting firm called H&R Block to work out his taxes but nothing came of it," related Hall. "H&R Block isn’t capable of working out complicated tax cases. It’s a chain of small accounting shops with unemployed accountants set up to do small accounts."

Nazario, however, disputed Hall’s revelation, saying Pacquiao has set aside over $150,000 in a US account to settle his tax obligations. He said his son has retained the services of a professional accountant to put Pacquiao’s books in order.

Hall lashed out at Muhammad for allegedly shortchanging Pacquiao in his fight against Marco Antonio Barrera in San Antonio last November. He insisted that the $100,000 bonus that Muhammad gave to Pacquiao for beating Barrera came from what the fighter should’ve earned in the first place.

"You wonder if Murad would’ve given Manny a $100,000 bonus if he lost," mused Hall.

In retrospect, Hall admitted he received about $14,000 from Pacquiao’s first three US fights as his share of the purses in the Ledwaba, Agapito Sanchez and Jorge Eliecer Julio outings.

"It was still a net loss for me considering what I’d advanced for Manny in the past," said Hall. "I even paid for my own ticket to go to Memphis for the Julio fight. My contract was supposed to be for two years but I’ve been cut out after only one year."

Hall blamed Muhammad for robbing Pacquiao blind. "I want to get to the bottom of each fight contract," he said. "I know HBO (Home Box Office) hates him. I’ll beat him in court like Manny beat Barrera, from post to post, back and forth. Manny might not know it but he’s in deep tax trouble and faces a lot of penalties in the US. I call it the post-traumatic boxers syndrome."

For the record, Muhammad introduced boxing to HBO in 1978.

Hall said it was Muhammad’s former matchmaker Samson Lewkowitz who broached the idea of Pacquiao replacing injured challenger Enrique Sanchez to challenge Ledwaba for the IBF title.

"Murad promised Lewkowitz $30,000 for the Pacquiao fight but never paid him," said Hall. "In fact, all Lewkowitz got for his efforts was a slap from Murad. Lewkowitz later filed an assault and battery case against Murad."

Nazario said he’s not bothered by Hall’s suit. "Hall’s contract expired after two years — that’s it," noted Nazario. "We paid out his share for Manny’s fights during his two-year contract. We recently asked Hall to help in obtaining a working visa for Manny in the US. When he couldn’t do it, we went to another immigration lawyer who got a three-year working permit. Maybe, Hall got mad because we hired another lawyer."

Hall accused Muhammad and the Nazarios of "wanton and malicious conduct motivated solely by greed and corruption and in complete disregard for (his) contract and Pacquiao’s best interests."

Hall cited violations of Sen. John McCain’s Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, including the failure to make full financial disclosures to Pacquiao, failure to maintain separate financial interests between managers and promoters and failure to file accurate statements and report to various state boxing commissions regarding fees, charges and expenses related to Pacquiao’s account.

The case was docketed by US district court clerk Richard Wieking and will be heard by judge J. Bryer.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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