Boxing star and Philippines politican Manny Pacquiao‘s lawyer cited free-speech grounds Tuesday in a court battle involving alleged extortion and a “fight of the century” with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Pacquiao’s lawyer urged a judge to dismiss part of a lawsuit filed by a man who alleges he was threatened and subjected to extortion for seeking to be paid $8.6 million for helping to set up the boxer’s fight with Mayweather.
But attorney Amman Khan, on behalf of plaintiff Gabriel Rueda, alleged that “goons and henchmen from (Pacquiao’s) Wild Card gym” terrorized his client for insisting on his right to be paid.
After hearing the arguments on Pacquiao lawyer David Marroso’s motion to dismiss Rueda’s claims for extortion and intentional infliction of emotional distress, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Sotelo took the case under submission. He did not say when he would rule.
In addition to his standout boxing career, Pacquiao is a Philippines senator.
Rueda filed the suit — which also alleges breach of an oral contract, fraud and unjust enrichment — on Feb. 4, naming Pacquiao and his trainer, Freddie Roach, CBS, Showtime Entertainment and Keith M. Davidson, described in the plaintiff’s court papers as a lawyer for “Roach, Pacquiao and a few other powerful people.”
Rueda works as an actor and a restaurant server. His suit states he served CBS President Leslie Moonves while working at Craig’s restaurant in West Hollywood and told Moonves he could introduce him to Roach in order to break the ice between Al Haymon and Bob Arum, the promoters for Mayweather and Pacquiao, respectively.
“These were two promoters who hated each other and couldn’t get the deal closed,” Khan said. “Here, Mr. Rueda came up with a novel idea.”
The lawsuit states that Rueda arranged a meeting between Roach and Moonves, with an agreement that he would get 2 percent of gross fight proceeds paid to CBS, Showtime Network, Pacquiao and Roach.
Khan said that despite Pacquiao’s lackluster performance because of a shoulder injury, the public watched in large numbers as Mayweather beat him by unanimous decision on May 2, 2015.
“It was considered the fight of the century,” Khan said.
Davidson, on behalf of Pacquiao and Roach, met with Rueda a month later at a coffeehouse at Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, according to the lawsuit. Davidson urged Rueda to accept $50,000 instead of the finder’s fee and also said he would help him acquire more acting jobs with the help of a talent agency, the suit states.
Davidson told Rueda that if he did not accept the offer and sign a release, he would lose his job at Craig’s and “never work as an actor in this town again,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that after Rueda called his boss at the restaurant and confirmed that Davidson contacted Craig’s, the restaurant management told him they would fire him if he did not accept the offer, because they wanted to keep Moonves’ business.
Rueda alleges that even though he helped Roach and Pacquiao obtain lucrative financial benefits from the fight, they threatened to destroy his acting career and have him fired from his job at the restaurant after he insisted on his 2 percent finder’s fee.
Marroso told the judge that the $50,000 offer Davidson made to Rueda to amounted to pre-litigation communications that are not actionable.
“Settlement discussions remain protected even when they are heated,” Marroso said.
Pacquiao has “never spoken to Mr. Rueda, not one time, not one word, yet he (Rueda) seeks millions of dollars based on Keith Davidson’s comments,” Marroso said.
But Khan denied there was any discussion of litigation between Rueda and Davidson. He also said Rueda did not initially know that Davidson was a lawyer and that his client wanted to resolve the dispute without the involvement of attorneys.
Khan said Rueda has developed severe emotional distress and suffered physically because of the alleged harassment from individuals from the Wild Card gym.
Lawyers for Davidson deny he threatened Rueda. They also have filed a motion to dismiss the same two causes of action against their client. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 2.
—Staff and wire reports