MANILA, July 4, 2005 
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Now it can be told. The jury of eight selected to decide Manny Pacquiao’s case against New Jersey promoter Murad Muhammad would’ve voted unanimously for the fighter if not for an out-of-court settlement that was arranged before the verdict was to be announced in New York the other week.

The vote was academic since Muhammad settled the $33 Million suit which was filed last April.

An eyewitness to the federal court proceedings, presided by judge Loretta Preska, said the turning point in the case was when proof of a "secret agreement" between Muhammad and manager Rod Nazario in relation to a business arrangement involving the fighter’s purses was submitted.

The "agreement" violated the stipulation of a "firewall" between promoters and managers and the condition of full disclosure in the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.

The eyewitness also said additional evidence of bank statements showing deposits made to a limited liability company, Philippine Boxing, where Pacquiao has claimed no interest was also key. The deposits purportedly represented Pacquiao’s purses from six US fights in 2001-04.

The eyewitness said the evidence was so overwhelming that the out-of-court settlement was arranged before the jury announced its verdict. On the basis of the proof, the jury would’ve clearly turned in an 8-0 vote, noted the eyewitness. The voluminous documents that Pacquiao’s lead counsel Judd Burstein and his staff gathered were placed in 12 boxes.

The jury, composed of six women and two men, was selected from a pool of 30 nominees. It reflected a cross-section of private citizens from New York.

Settlement discussions only began after the closing arguments were delivered. The settlement was sealed on the sixth day of court sessions.

"We settled the case while the jury was deliberating," said Burstein in an e-mail. "Due to confidentiality obligations, all that I can tell you about the settlement is that Manny was released from his contract with Murad and that Murad paid an undisclosed amount of money to Manny to partially cover court costs."

Several witnesses were called to the stand to testify in the Manhattan trial that started last June 20. HBO Sports senior vice president Kery Davis was the first witness. He testified that contrary to Muhammad’s claim, there was no July 30, 2004, HBO schedule for a Pacquiao fight. The witnesses on the second day were New York promoter Lou DiBella, trainer Freddie Roach, lawyer Keith Davidson and Nazario’s son Roberto on videotape.

DiBella offered Pacquiao a three-year $2.5 Million deal to promote his US fights in 2002. The contract included a $50,000 signing bonus and a guaranteed amount of $650,000 in the first year for three fights.

Muhammad allegedly told DiBella to withdraw his offer because Pacquiao had already signed a renewal of their contract. The contract that Pacquiao supposedly signed has not been found.

Pacquiao was called to the witness stand on the third day of the trial but was hardly questioned by Muhammad’s lawyer Julian Friedman. Muhammad was questioned on two separate days.

The opposing lawyers delivered their closing statements the afternoon before the case was settled. In his final remarks, Friedman admitted Pacquiao was robbed but said Muhammad was also a victim. It was Friedman’s argument that the US had no jurisdiction in the case because two Filipinos were involved and Muhammad was not a party to the dispute. However, the argument was refuted when it was pointed out that Muhammad initiated the ruse.

Pacquiao’s suit did not name Nazario, only Muhammad and his promotions company M&M Sports.

Pacquiao said he owed a debt of gratitude to Roach for introducing him to Davidson and lawyer Nicholas Khan who in turn introduced him to new manager Shelly Finkel and Burstein.

"Malaki ang utang na loob ko kay coach Freddie," said Pacquiao. "Tinuturing ko siya parang ama."

As the trial progressed, it became increasingly evident Muhammad was losing ground, said the source who added that it was the one of the strongest cases Pacquiao’s lawyers ever handled in relation to boxing.

During the trial, Burstein described unscrupulous promoters and managers as "the underbelly of boxing (involving) greed, exploitation and taking advantage of people." He said Pacquiao, as a fighter, is a man of courage who deserves "great reward" for risking his life in the ring.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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