David Tua's boxing promoter Cedric Kushner has come back swinging at Tua's local representative, Inga Tuigamala, in the latest managerial conflict in Tua's career.
Kushner said emails between him and Tuigamala show that Kushner could not have been responsible for paying the US$10,000 fee of Tua's most recent opponent, Demetrice King. The latter is back in the US, complaining that he has not been paid after losing a unanimous points decision.
Tuigamala, Tua's cousin and Auckland-based promoter, said he was responsible only for the undercard of the Tua-King fight last weekend and that Kushner, Tua's US-based promoter, was responsible for King.
Kushner said he was asked by Tuigamala to stand down for the King fight; to waive his normal percentage of Tua's purse (understood to be about 25 per cent); to allow Tuigamala to stage the fight, partly because of the anticipated drop in income.
Kushner claimed that Tuigamala then had difficulty finding an opponent for Tua - and asked Kushner to see if he could find a fighter to take on Tua.
Kushner said he did - identifying King and signing him up on the contract/bout agreement now at the centre of the dispute. Tuigamala said it is proof that Kushner is responsible for paying King.
But Kushner said he had stepped aside to allow Tuigamala to promote it locally; and thus could not have been expected to have paid a boxer for a fight from which he [Kushner] gained no revenue. He expected Tuigamala to pay King.
"I am so, so surprised by Inga in all this," said Kushner yesterday from New York. "I received absolutely no money at all from this fight - why would I then put myself in a position where I had to pay one of the fighters when I was receiving no revenue?
"You also have to ask yourself this: if this was my fight - organised and promoted by me - why would I be effectively asking Inga for permission? It'd be like asking him if it was okay for my wife to buy a dress."
Tuigamala said: "That is absolute rubbish. I never went to him and asked him to let me promote the show. If I was the promoter, how come when we had all the press conferences and at the weigh-in that it was Cedric doing all the talking?
"How come Cedric has a contract with Demetrice King that says Cedric has the right to promote King's next two fights [if King had won; a boxing tactic to ensure a rematch]? If I was the promoter, wouldn't that be me who has the rights?"
The scanned emails sent to the Herald on Sunday by Kushner show him contacting Tuigamala to confirm the details of the fight (including King's fee) and Tuigamala's response, telling Kushner to go ahead with the contract.
Kushner acknowledged that the contract with King was on Gotham Boxing letterhead (Kushner's company) and could be read as a deal between King and himself.
"But there are two ways you can do these things," said Kushner. "You can do it all by documentation and make it clear in writing that the Gotham contract was linked to Inga - or you can do it on trust, depending how well you know the individual.
"Seeing it was Inga - a great All Black, a champion of the people, and a friend and confidant of David Tua, I did it on trust; in the belief that the obligations within that arrangement would be attended to."
Tuigamala said: "Oh, don't give me that. Don't use my relationship with David Tua. Everybody knows boxing is the most corrupt sport.
"There are always stories of problems between boxers and managers about money. Cedric has been in this game longer than anyone.
"Does he seriously expect us to believe that he would not do all this in writing?
"It's not a trust issue - it's a contractual issue and the only contract with Demetrice King is in Gotham Boxing's name."
Tuigamala said he might be prepared to assist in paying King if the matter was a misunderstanding.
The Tua-King bout was the last in a series of Tua fights broadcast by Maori TV. The lesser TV rights payment and a crowd of only about 1000 fans last Saturday night suggested profits may be hard to find.
Tua's career was previously blighted by a long-running legal and financial case involving former mentor and trainer Kevin Barry and financial manager Martin Pugh.
The case saw Tua financially strained and his career went on hold for several years - with his fight against Shane Cameron in 2009 signalling his second attempt at a comeback designed to carry him to a world title fight.