Junior welterweight world titlist Regis Prograis has pulled out of the World Boxing Super Series tournament final.
Prograis and Lou DiBella, his promoter, also filed suit Friday against tournament organizer Comosa AG, a Swiss company, in U.S. federal court for the district of New Jersey. They accused Comosa AG of refusing to enter an escrow agreement to secure their money, and they seek a jury to find that Prograis is free of any further obligation to the tournament.
Prograis and DiBella issued a joint statement saying the suit "is the result of a long and repeated pattern of behavior by Comosa that includes late payments, scheduling delays, bad faith representations, missed deadlines, and broken promises."
"There is no one more disappointed by this turn of events than Regis Prograis, who has expressed his desire to unify the [140-pound] division on a number of occasions," the joint statement said. "Comosa was provided every opportunity to see the WBSS to conclusion but it failed at every turn to meet its obligations to the contracted fighters. This action was commenced only after Prograis and [DiBella Entertainment] determined, as a result of Comosa's conduct, that his participation in this venture was no longer possible."
Prograis (24-0, 20 KOs), 30, of Houston, cruised to a lopsided decision over Terry Flanagan in the quarterfinals of the eight-man tournament in October and then knocked out Kiryl Relikh in the sixth round of the semifinals on April 27 in Lafayette, Louisiana, not far from his original home of New Orleans.
Prograis was supposed to face Scotland's Josh Taylor (15-0, 12 KOs) in the final, which was slated for Oct. 5, probably in the United Kingdom, though WBSS officials had not yet announced the particulars.
The first season of tournaments, which were held in the cruiserweight and super middleweight divisions, was plagued with financial issues, mainly due to a lack of an American broadcast contract, but was ultimately completed with the fields intact.
The second season, which includes tournaments at junior welterweight, bantamweight and cruiserweight, is at the finals stage, but only the bantamweight final has been scheduled and announced: a unification fight between Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire on Nov. 7 in Saitama, Japan. Even that bout will take place months later than it was contractually supposed to.
Prograis claims in the suit that he ran into issues with Comosa after he won his quarterfinal against Flanagan and submitted an invoice within five days after the bout, as required, for his winner's bonus, but Comosa did not pay him for more than a month.
The tournament had similar issues with Ivan Baranchyk, another DiBella fighter, who won a junior welterweight belt in the quarterfinals and nearly pulled out over the same issues before they were resolved and he lost in the semifinals.
According to the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, Prograis and DiBella went to Comosa to negotiate an escrow agreement under which Comosa would put Prograis' purse money and the potential winner's bonus into escrow at agreed-upon dates before the semifinals to avoid issues with payment. Part of the escrow agreement, according to the suit, stipulated that if Prograis advanced to the final, the parties would enter "an escrow agreement on substantially similar terms" as for the semifinals, and that the final would take place no later than Oct. 7.
On July 29, DiBella attorney Alex Dombroff wrote to Comosa as a reminder about the escrow agreement deadlines for payment. The first payment was due by Aug. 3, but the suit said that deadline was missed.
"Comosa made a belated attempt to buy more time on August 6, by sending draft escrow and bout agreements. However, both the draft escrow and bout agreements were conditioned on giving Comosa another two weeks to put off making escrow payments and to find a site for the bout," the suit said. "Comosa set the date of the bout for October 5. On information and belief, Comosa never had the October 5, 2019 date set with their US broadcaster DAZN. Thus, Comosa sent out agreements it knew were false and not approved by their broadcast partner. Two days later, on August 8, Comosa sent yet another set of draft escrow and bout agreements. This time, they proposed a date of September 28, 2019 for the final. ... Bumping the date of the final up one week gave Prograis even less time to train for the biggest fight of his life and further violated the Escrow Agreement's set schedule of escrow payments."
According to the suit, Prograis' purses were $500,000 for the quarterfinal with a $500,000 winner's bonus; $500,000 for the semifinal with a $600,000 winner's bonus; and a $700,000 purse for the final with a $1.3 million winner's bonus.
According to the suit, the escrow agreement that Prograis and DiBella claim was breached called for $500,000 to be deposited on or before Aug. 1 (with a two-day grace period); another $500,000 on or before Aug. 12, and $1 million on or before Sept. 4.
Comosa AG said it has complied with its contract and vowed to fight to keep Prograis in the tournament.
"WBSS emphasizes that all tournament fighters have fair contracts regarding their exclusive participation in the tournament. This is no different for Regis Prograis," Comosa AG said in a statement issued Saturday morning. "WBSS greatly values Regis' participation in the tournament. The litigation initiated by Regis Prograis and DiBella Entertainment Inc. in the New Jersey District Court is completely unfounded and without any basis in fact or in law.
"WBSS strenuously denies that it has violated any contractual obligation towards Regis Prograis or DiBella Entertainment Inc. The WBSS has enforced its tournament contracts in the past. It will do so again with all resources available if needed.
"We look forward to the upcoming final of the [junior welterweights] for the Ali Trophy between Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor. It promises to be a spectacular boxing night. WBSS will defend the tournament against any attempts of third parties to interfere with the tournament with all means and in all jurisdictions available as necessary."