MANILA, Philippines ? How?s this for an undercard?
Against the backdrop of one of the more important boxing matches this year, two giant television networks are rolling up their sleeves as they prepare to go head-on against each other in a pricey courtroom brawl worth about P150 million.
In one corner is Solar Sports.
With Manny Pacquiao reiterating that he will have his May 2 fight against Ricky Hatton aired by another network, Solar said it will drag the boxer and ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. to court or, at the very least, seek an injunction against their newly formed partnership.
In the other corner is ABS-CBN, which issued a stern warning to Solar Sport?s plans to seek a legal pulley that will reel Pacquiao back to its fold: The clout-heavy media firm said it will fight all the way to protect its newest client?s wishes.
Solar Sports, which owns the right to air Pacquiao?s fights until 2011, is optimistic it managed to convince the Filipino ring icon to change his mind about dumping it in favor of the Lopez-owned network.
?My feeling is he will retract (his initial announcement to hook up with ABS-CBN),? said Solar vice president for sales and marketing Jude Turcuato.
But that optimism was blown to bits by another announcement beamed from Los Angeles, where Pacquiao is training for his Las Vegas bout with light welterweight superstar Hatton.
?My decision is still the same,? Pacquiao firmly announced over ABS-CBN?s nightly news program. ?Sana panoorin nila ang fight ko this coming May 2 sa ABS-CBN.? [I hope people will come out and watch my fight on ABS-CBN.]
Pacquiao?s announcement came at the heels of a press conference by Solar Sports, where it was revealed that the network?s top brass ? president William Tieng and chief executive Peter Chan Liong ? flew to the United States to meet with Pacquiao and iron out whatever differences that forced the fighter to do abandon them.
In that same press briefing, Solar Sports made it clear that it would be more than willing to go to court to settle the dispute.
?If things don?t work out in the next three to four days, I expect early next week that a case or an injunction or a TRO will be filed against Manny and ABS-CBN,? said Turcuato, who added that the case could be worth P150 million.
However, ABS-CBN made it clear it wasn?t giving up an inch to protect the interests of Pacquiao.
?Manny approached ABS-CBN and as its client, he will have the network?s all-out support,? said an unimpeachable source.
The source is the same network insider who broke the story of Pacquiao?s transfer to ABS-CBN in an Inquirer exclusive.
In its press briefing, Solar Sports denied claims that Pacquiao broke off from their deal because of delayed payments, adding that what they had not forwarded to the fighter were the ?advance payments? he was seeking.
?He may have been misled or misguided into believing that Solar Entertainment has committed a breach of his contract,? said Solar Sports lawyer Joseph Sagandoy.
?But the fact is, Solar Entertainment has complied with all the obligations under the agreement. And there?s absolutely no valid ground to rescind the agreement.?
?He was asking for advances,? said legal counsel Stephen David. ?And even if you say we didn?t pay his advances, we didn?t receive any demands.?
But according to the information gathered by the Inquirer, Pacquiao rescinded his contract with Solar because of late payment of royalty fees. He was supposed to be paid P60 million per fight in three installments starting on Feb. 4, 10 days after the two parties signed the contract for the Hatton bout.
The slugger from the southern city of General Santos reportedly received a payment of P15 million ? 25 percent of the total ? only last March 17.
Adding a dash of intrigue to the looming court clash is the fact that in Solar Sports? corner is GMA Network Inc., the fiercest rival of ABS-CBN.
GMA Network doesn?t own the exclusive right to broadcast Pacquiao?s fights, but signed into blocktime agreements with Solar Sports to air those fights on their channel.
Pacquiao has two shows with GMA Network and has an existing contract that bars him from appearing on shows or programs affiliated with ABS-CBN.
?Manny?s fights are not programs, shows or promotions of ABS-CBN,? the Lopez network said in a statement. ?[The] network will only be airing Pacquiao?s boxing matches that will be produced by Top Rank.?