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GREGORY v. SCORCIA

July 16, 1980

EDDIE "FLAME" GREGORY, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH SCORCIA and FLAME GREGORY ENTERPRISES, LTD., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLACK

DECISION

This case was heard at a Bench trial. Jurisdiction is posited on diversity of citizenship of the parties and the requisite amount in controversy.

 In this action, plaintiff Eddie "Flame" Gregory, holder of the light-heavyweight crown of the World Boxing Association ("WBA"), seeks to have three management contracts he made with the defendants declared null and void and rescinded, and to have defendants enjoined from enforcing these contracts. Plaintiff claims that defendants have breached their contractual duties to him and that, moreover, the contracts violate the New York statutes and regulations governing manager-boxer relations. *fn1" Defendants deny that they have breached their duties to plaintiff and deny that the contracts are void under New York law.

 For the reasons discussed hereafter, plaintiff is not entitled to the relief sought and his complaint will be dismissed.

 The management contracts in issue

 Plaintiff Gregory and defendant Joseph Scorcia first discussed the possibility of Scorcia's becoming Gregory's manager in the summer of 1976, plaintiff Gregory having apparently become unhappy with his manager of several years, Jack Singer. Scorcia, although not a full-time boxing manager, was licensed to manage by the New York State Athletic Commission, and had been managing boxers for about four years.

 In early August 1976, Scorcia incorporated Flame Gregory Boxing Enterprises, Ltd. ("Enterprises") in New York; Enterprises is not licensed as a boxing manager in New York. On September 3, 1976, Gregory and Enterprises entered into a written contract ("the September 3 contract") that provided for Enterprises to act as Gregory's manager for four years commencing August 27, 1976. This contract was conditioned on Enterprises' obtaining a release from Singer, which it did on September 9, upon payment of $ 10,000 to Singer.

 Under this contract, Gregory agreed to render his boxing services solely for Enterprises, in return for Enterprises' promise to exert its best efforts to secure remunerative boxing contests for Gregory. Gregory was to receive 662/3% of all fight purses, after deduction of expenses.

 Pursuant to regulations promulgated by the New York State Athletic Commission which provide that a contract between manager and boxer is not valid for purposes of bouts held in New York "unless both parties appear at the same time before the commission and receive its approval (of the contract)", N.Y.C.R.R. § 205.5, on September 10, 1976, Gregory and Scorcia appeared at the Commission's offices. In compliance with another regulation providing that "Contracts between boxers and manager . . . shall be executed on printed forms approved by the commission," N.Y.C.R.R. § 206.1, Gregory and Scorcia executed a second contract on a form provided by the Commission ("the September 10 contract").

 The basic terms of this contract were consistent with the September 3 contract in providing for a term of four years and for Gregory to receive 662/3% of all fight purses after expenses. Unlike the September 3 contract however, the September 10 contract named both Scorcia individually and Enterprises (who were functionally equivalent anyway), as Gregory's manager and was signed by Scorcia with the title "Pres." The September 10 contract provided further that it did not go into effect until approved by the Commission and became "null and void if during its term either the Athlete or the Manager is not duly licensed by the said Commission." The Commission approved this contract on October 7, 1976.

 On March 16, 1977, shortly after Gregory had won an important victory over Matt Franklin (now the holder of the WBC light-heavyweight title under the name Matthew Saad Muhammad), Gregory and Enterprises entered into a third management contract ("the March 16 contract"). Under this contract, Enterprises alone was to act as manager for Gregory for four years commencing August 27, 1980 that is, commencing upon the expiration of the September 3 contract. Except for the operative dates, the terms of this contract were virtually identical to the September 3 contract. Gregory received $ 4,000 outright and a $ 6,000 loan from Enterprises for signing this contract.

 The disputes between Gregory and Scorcia

 It appears that Gregory and Scorcia had periodic minor disputes from at least the latter part of 1977, and that by December 1979 Gregory had become generally and thoroughly dissatisfied with Scorcia. In particular, Gregory felt that Scorcia was not obtaining sufficiently profitable fights for him or accommodating him with suitably posh training quarters. No evidence was adduced, however, demonstrating any sound basis for these feelings or showing that Scorcia used other than his best efforts to obtain remunerative fights for Gregory and to advance him through the ranks.

 In fact, Scorcia performed his tasks as manager (and Gregory his as boxer) ably enough so that by December 1979, Gregory was the number one ranked contender in the WBA. Under WBA custom, Gregory was therefore entitled to a mandatory title fight with the then-reigning champion, Marvin Johnson. Scorcia began negotiating with Bob Arum, the promoter who handles most WBA fights, for a title fight for Gregory.

 Arum's original offer called for Gregory to receive $ 40,000 for the title challenge, and would have given Arum the option to promote the next three title defenses in the event that Gregory won. Scorcia presented this offer to Gregory, but assured the latter that they could get more money. This assurance proved well-founded, as Arum subsequently increased his offer to $ 60,000 for the title challenge, and to $ 130,000, $ 140,000, and $ 160,000, respectively for the three title defenses on which Arum would have the above-mentioned option.

 Scorcia presented this proposed contract to Gregory, but Gregory declined to sign it. Gregory claims that he told Scorcia at this point that he was not signing any contract with options in it, but would only sign a one-fight contract, because he felt he could earn more money promoting his own fights after he became champion. Scorcia, on the other hand, claims that Gregory never mentioned options at this point that he gave various ...


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