Eddie Hearn and Jake Paul face off as promotional rivals in the historic Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano superfight earlier this year.
The two will now square off in a court of law.
Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the outspoken Paul, claiming defamation in a complaint filed Friday afternoon with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. The case was submitted following outrageous allegations dropped by Paul, who alleged that veteran boxing judge Glenn Feldman was on Matchroom’s payroll based on his recent scoring of Taylor-Serrano on April 30 in New York City and the Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch on August 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“Both legally and ethically there is a clear line separating opinion from defamatory lies,” attorney Frank Salzano, representing Matchroom Boxing in the complaint, told BoxingScene.com in a provided quote. “Jake Paul knows that, and he purposely crossed that line when he wrongly accused Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn of fixing fights.
“Nonetheless he was still given an opportunity to retract his defamatory statements and refused to. Now he will face the legal consequences of his actions as Matchroom and Mr. Hearn will be seeking damages in well excess of $100 million given the value and goodwill attached to the Matchroom business and the harmful nature of Mr. Paul’s comments.”
The official complaint calls for the exact amount to be established during a demanded trial by jury, but well “in excess of the $75,000 jurisdictional requirement.”
Paul caught the ire of Hearn and Matchroom following his slanderous comments made in an interview earlier this week with IFL TV’s Umar Ahmed which was since made private. In the interview, Paul—whose Most Valuable Promotions represents Brooklyn’s Serrano (42-2-1, 30KOs) took issue with Feldman’s scorecard in the Taylor-Serrano fight. Taylor won by split decision, with Feldman’s card of 97-93 for Taylor the widest among the three judges.
Feldman drew industry-wide scorn for his scoring of the Usyk-Joshua rematch, awarding the bout 115-113 in favor of Joshua, who is promoted by Matchroom as is Taylor. It was fortunately overruled by judges Viktor Fesechko (116-112) and Steve Gray (115-113), whose cards were far more in line with public perception and even that of Hearn who admitted that Usyk deserved to win the fight.
That didn’t stop Paul from offering his thoughts on the handling of both superfights.
“I still think Amanda Serrano won the fight,” Paul said. “And then you see how this judge Glenn Feldman, who had the biggest gap between Taylor and Serrano. Everyone pretty much had it a draw… or that Amanda won. But there’s this judge, Glenn Feldman, who scored it such a big gap for Taylor, gave rounds that Amanda clearly won to Taylor.
“Then this judge, Glenn Feldman, shows up in Saudi and scores Anthony Joshua to win (against Usyk). Everyone who watched the fight (knows) it’s not a split decision. Usyk had a runaway victory, clearly won the fight. This judge, Glenn Feldman, gives it to Anthony Joshua? It’s like a repeated crime here. This type of shit, I’m going to call it out here in boxing because it’s bullshit. Clearly, this guy is getting paid money by Matchroom Boxing.”
It was at that moment that Hearn took exception to Paul’s remarks. The international promoter and chairman of Matchroom Sport made the media rounds suggesting that he would take legal action had Paul not walked back his claims. The 25-year-old Paul—who is in training for an October 29 clash with MMA legend Anderson Silva atop a Showtime Pay-Per-View—saw it coming even as he made such accusations.
“It’s a bold statement and an accusation that I don’t take lightly but it’s just blatantly obvious,” stated Paul. “They’re not even trying to hide it. You’d think they get a different judge that fucked up the scoring from Taylor-Serrano. You’d think they’d get a different judge to bring to Saudi Arabia, especially since he’s from the U.S.
“Why all of a sudden does he appear in Saudi? You’d think they’d get a different judge to try to hide the corruption that they’re bringing to this sport but it’s so blatantly obvious.”
While it goes without saying that scoring and officiating in boxing needs a complete overhaul, proof is needed before going as far as to allege corruption. That is the part where Matchroom takes extreme exception, to the point of legal action deemed necessary.
“In light of his substantial following, when Defendant speaks, boxing fans, media, and the boxing profession listen,” Salzano noted in the filed complaint. “The spoken and written words of the Defendant are inevitably spread globally with the potential to harm the reputation of any individual or entity.
“Although playful banter and even smack talk criticizing rivals is common in the boxing profession, Defendant’s recent, outlandishly false and baseless accusations against Matchroom, which are detailed below, crossed far past the line of banter, and clearly constitute defamation.”
Matchroom has vehemently denied Paul’s claims, both through the media and in the filed complaint. Furthermore, it is noted that it is not the promoter who selects the officials but rather the presiding commission.
The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) assigned the referee and judges for every bout on the Taylor-Serrano event at Madison Square Garden. The Middle Eastern Professional Boxing Commission handled such duties for the Usyk-Joshua heavyweight title fight rematch.
It is argued in the complaint that Paul “made his false and defamatory statements deliberately and maliciously with the intent to intimidate, discredit, and defame Matchroom. Defendant has made statements of fact against Matchroom that are false. At the time Defendant made his statements, Defendant knew, or should have known, that the statements were false.
“[Paul’s] statements were made to reporters, newspapers, and other public outlets, among other places and persons. The statements were not privileged. [Paul’s] statements were published to a broad audience [and] deliberately made the statements knowing they would be disseminated to a broad audience and would harm Matchroom’s reputation and good standing. [Paul] acted with spite and malice when making the defamatory statements [which] were, in fact, widely published and disseminated around the world, including in the Southern District of New York.”
Ironically, Paul—whose brand boasts more than 70,000,000 followers and subscribers across his various social media platforms—made his pro debut on a January 2020 DAZN show promoted by Matchroom Boxing, scoring a first-round knockout of fellow online influencer AnEsonGib during Super Bowl week in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Hearn and Paul collaborated again for the Taylor-Serrano superfight, a bout that was once planned for 2020 but which fell apart in efforts to reschedule after the pandemic. The pound-for-pound showdown was put back in play shortly after Paul’s MVP signed Serrano to a managerial deal last September. The move saw Serrano more than triple her pay for the fight, earning a reported and career-best seven-figure payday for her unforgettable clash with Taylor which was well received around the world.
The leading Fight of the Year candidate drew immediate demand for the pound-for-pound stars to run it back. The two have instead gone their separate ways, fighting on separate shows in England five weeks apart.
There is still hope that the two will collide at some point in 2022, although Serrano seeks to become undisputed featherweight champion. A win over Mahfoud leaves Serrano as the unified WBC/IBF/WBO/IBO champion, leaving just WBA featherweight titlist Erika Cruz who is promoted by Matchroom.
Either way, it leaves Paul’s MVP forced to work with the promotional outfit whom he has alleged to have a financial interest in at least one ring official. Hearn has stated that he has no problem working with Paul even through the active lawsuit, as he doesn’t want to stand in the way of his fighters maximizing their revenue.
The ball is now in Paul’s court to either resolve the matter in a professional manner, or take his chances in a court of law.
“As a consequence of Defendant’s defamatory statements, Matchroom is entitled to substantial and significant damages in an amount to be determined at trial,” Salzano argues on behalf of his client in the complaint. “Punitive and exemplary damages are necessary in this case to deter Defendant and others from wantonly and maliciously using a campaign of lies to discredit Matchroom and other boxing promoters.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox