Super middleweight world titleholder David Benavidez is at the center of a brewing legal fight between promoters Bob Arum of Top Rank and Sampson Lewkowicz of Sampson Boxing.
Arum told ESPN on Tuesday that he signed Benavidez to a promotional contract last week, but Lewkowicz said he still has the fighter under contract through 2021.
"We signed him. We want to give him big fights," Arum said. "But I don't really want to talk about it right now because there's going to be some litigation. [Lewkowicz] believes he's still under contract and any further questions please contact our lawyers Dan Petrocelli and David Marroso."
Lewkowicz was livid with Arum about the situation.
"Bob Arum, Top Rank, everyone involved in this will have a lawsuit," Lewkowicz told ESPN. "People believe I am weak or they believe I am naive. But trust me -- I am not naive and I am not weak. I never had a problem with Bob Arum before. We had a good relationship but no more. Arum is trying to steal the work I did. With David, I took him from nothing to world champion. But with money you can destroy any contract. It's so unspeakable what Arum did. It's a disgrace for an old man to do something like this. It's savage. I hope he can sleep at night because what he did was totally wrong.
"We sent a cease and desist letter and now I have three lawyers working on the case, working on a lawsuit."
Arum, who also promotes 168-pound world titleholder Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez and contender Jesse Hart, has intentions of putting Benavidez on his ESPN-televised cards, but Lewkowicz said he doesn't believe the network will allow him to fight on its air while there is a lawsuit.
"Arum is destroying a young man's career," Lewkowicz said. "This is a young man, 21 years old, who he refused to sign at the age of 18. After that I did all the work. I work so hard for this kid. I treat him like my son, like every fighter I have. I believe he made a mistake but I still have confidence he will come back home. I will wait for him. He will come back."
Top Rank has promoted Jose Benavidez Jr. (26-0, 17 KOs), David's older brother and a former interim junior welterweight titlist now campaigning at welterweight, for his entire eight-year career but never tried to sign David after he turned professional.
In November, Lewkowicz announced that he and Benavidez had renewed their promotional agreement.
At the time of the renewal announcement, Benavidez said, "Sampson is a great promoter and he's done a lot for me. He's always treated me and my team with respect and I was eager to re-sign with him. I can't wait to defend my title against the best and become the great fighter I am with Sampson on my team."
Jose Benavidez Sr., David's father, trainer and co-manager with David Garcia, said at the time, "We are all really happy and excited. We started with Sampson and he's done a tremendous job. We are super satisfied with what he's done and where we are at. We didn't even think twice about it. I think when this contract ends we'll sign another one with him."
Last September, Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs), of Phoenix, was 20 years old when he survived a 12th-round knockdown and won a split decision over Ronald Gavril to claim a vacant super middleweight world title in action-packed fight. With the victory, Benavidez became boxing's youngest active world titleholder at the time and the youngest titleholder in super middleweight history, shattering the record previously held by Darin Van Horn, who as 22 when he claimed a world title in 1991.
In his first defense, Benavidez easily outpointed Gavril in a rematch on Feb. 17. He was supposed to make his second defense against former middleweight title challenger Matt Korobov on Showtime on July 28 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in the co-feature of the lightweight title unification fight in the process of being finalized between Mikey Garcia and Robert Easter Jr.
"In April I sent (Benavidez) $50,000 for training expenses for the July 28 fight against Korobov. He took the money and he never signed the bout contract," Lewkowicz said. "But he cannot fight for Arum. I have a contract with him. It's very simple. Arum gave him money to sign. I don't know how much but it must be a lot of money because Bob Arum tried to buy me out for seven figures and I refused. I never accept. I worked so hard why should I give him the fighter?
"David Benavidez is 21, a young kid who doesn't understand the consequences of signing two contacts with two promoters. He doesn't understand the law."