Super middleweight world titlist David Benavidez has had a change of heart.
Two weeks ago, Benavidez signed with Bob Arum's Top Rank and accepted a $250,000 signing bonus. But on Monday, he gave the money back to Top Rank and returned to the promoter he threw overboard, Sampson Lewkowicz of Sampson Boxing.
When Benavidez made the move, Lewkowicz, who claimed he still had Benavidez under contract through 2021 after signing him to an extension in November, was incensed. He sued Top Rank, Arum and Billy Keane, who brokered the deal with Top Rank, for interfering with his agreement.
Arum told ESPN that Benavidez told him that he wanted to remain with Lewkowicz, and when he returned the bonus money he let him go without a fight.
"He returned the money, a cashier's check, with a nice letter saying he wanted to stay with Sampson, so we decided to honor the request even though he signed with us and we wished him good luck," Arum said. "The only reason we signed him is because he came up to the office and he said [Lewkowicz and adviser Al Haymon] were doing bad by him and he wanted to sign with us. He said they had breached the contract and he wanted to come with us. He changed his mind. We said fine and he sent us back the $250,000."
The Los Angeles Times first reported the news.
Top Rank has promoted welterweight contender Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-0, 18 KOs), David's older brother, for his entire eight-year career but passed on signing David when he turned pro in 2013. Lewkowicz signed him and guided him to becoming, at age 20, the youngest super middleweight world titleholder in boxing history when he survived a 12th-round knockdown and won a split decision over Ronald Gavril to claim a vacant 168-pound belt in September.
In his first defense, Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs), of Phoenix, easily outpointed Gavril in a rematch on Feb. 17, and he was supposed to make his second defense against former middleweight title challenger Matt Korobov on Showtime on July 28 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on the undercard of the lightweight title unification fight in the process of being finalized between Mikey Garcia and Robert Easter Jr.
That date is now lost and Lewkowicz said Benavidez, 21, would return in September to make a mandatory defense against former world titleholder Anthony Dirrell (32-1-1, 24 KOs), 33, of Flint, Michigan.
"Look, I say always that he would come home," Lewkowicz told ESPN. "He is young man who was with no experience, only 21. He was misled by Billy Keane. This Billy Keane tried the same thing with [former middleweight champion] Sergio Martinez several years ago, but Sergio had more experience and he understood the bull---- of a con man like Keane. He took David to Top Rank, he told him that he would make a lot of money, get $250,000 and they make him more famous. He told him that I would still be involved as his co-promoter, and that was a lie. Keane misled Bob Arum, Top Rank and the whole Benavidez family.
"David called me and he apologized, and my lawyers will drop the lawsuit this week. But Billy Keane misled everyone. I will sue him individually and I will teach him a lesson not to steal anymore."
Keane could not be reached for comment.
Arum said it wasn't worth a fight to try to keep Benavidez at the risk of a protracted lawsuit when the fighter said he made a mistake.
"At this stage, particularly carrying the ESPN banner with our deal, we are not going resort to litigation when we don't have to," Arum said. "We're not going to bully a kid. He said he made a mistake when he signed with us. You let him go. We don't need an unhappy kid. David, from what I know, is a lovely kid. He's a little confused but a lovely kid. He's not a wise guy. He's a nice young man who said he made a mistake. OK. We're not going to hold anything against him. He decided to stay with Sampson and I don't need the hassle. I don't hold anything against the kid."
Lewkowicz said Arum had previously offered him seven figures to bring him in as a co-promoter, but he turned it down only to have Benavidez suddenly sign with Top Rank.
"I turned it down because I believe that finally after 10 years of my company -- I gave up Sergio Martinez for many years to Lou DiBella, I give up Manny Pacquiao and Javier Castillejo. I give up Lucas Matthysse to Golden Boy and I finish [with] empty hands," he said. "Now that I have my own company and I find a superstar in David Benavidez why should I give him away? I am not a poor man. Seven figures doesn't blind my eyes.
"Now I hope our relationship between Top Rank and Sampson Boxing will work as well as it did before. I have the most respect for Bob Arum."