The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the family of the late boxing promoter Rodolfo Nazario to pay former world featherweight champion Luisito Espinosa the remaining balance of his prize money for defending his World Boxing Council title in 1997 in South Cotabato.
Court records show that the promoters allegedly owed the former boxing champion who is now based in the US at least P5.8 million plus interest that accrued from the time the case was filed in court 18 years ago.
The surviving members of the Nazario family–Rodolfo’s wife, Minita, and children Roderick, Rommelius and Karen Patricia — were impleaded in the case after the death of their patriarch.
Rommelus told The Manila Times on Monday they will file an appeal to overturn the CA ruling.
“The decision was wrong. Espinosa did not appear when the case was on trial in the lower court and under oath, he admitted that my father is only an ‘accommodating partner,’” he said.
“Wala kaming atraso, alam ng Diyos yan. Nakakaawa kung sa nakakaawa pero ano naman ang magagawa ng tatay ko [We did nothing wrong to Espinosa and God knows that. It’s a pity but what could my father do]?”
In the 29-page ruling, the CA 2nd Division overturned the decision of the Manila Regional Trial Court dismissing Espinosa’s complaint he filed against Nazario, as well as the other promoters of the fight, identified as former South Cotabato Governor Hilario de Pedro and Joselito Mondejar.
The CA dismissed the case against Mondejar since he was not a signatory to the contract and the guarantee letter that the promoters gave Espinosa after the fight.
It also dismissed the case against de Pedro, citing the Espinosa camp’s failure to pursue the case against him.
“The complaint was filed by the plaintiff in 1997, and it has been 18 years for the case to reach this point. It would be unfair and impractical to let this case go on for another number of years… We dismiss the case against defendant-appellee Governor de Pedro III for failure to prosecute,” the CA said.
Espinosa, known as the Golden Boy, successfully defended his title against Argentinean Carlos Rios in the fight held in Koronadal.
He and his manager Joe Koizumi filed the case on May 26, 1998 against the promoters and organizers of the December 6 Koronadal fight.
Under the fight contract, boxing promoter Nazario, Gov. de Pedro and Mondejar were bound to pay Espinosa a guaranteed purse of $150,000 and training expenses of $10,000.
The contract further stipulated that by the end of October 1997, the promoters would advance one-third of the fight purse which is $50,000 and $10,000 in training expenses.
Case records indicate that the promoters were able to pay $29,651 a few days before the fight.
On the day of the actual fight, the promoters signed a guarantee letter promising to pay the balance of amounting to $130,349 on or before December 16, 1997.
Despite repeated demands, Espinosa was not paid the full amount.
The CA in its ruling gave weight to the guarantee letter, which was submitted by the prosecution.
“Defendant-appellee Nazario’s failure to deny the genuineness and due execution of the actionable documents appended to the complaint was tantamount to a judicial admission by him of the genuineness and due execution of those documents,” the court said in holding Nazario’s heirs liable to pay Espinosa’s camp.
“Judicial admissions do not require proof and may not be contradicted in the absence of a prior showing that the admissions had been made through palpable mistake,” it addded.
The CA did not give merit to Nazario’s defense that he merely signed the agreement as an “accommodation party.”
“This defense is not readily apparent from a perusal of the contents of the agreement. In fact, the agreement specifically referred to defendant-appellee Nazario as the local promoter and his obligation as such was clearly set forth in the said agreement,” it explained.
Boxing before Pacquiao
Espinosa was the toast of Philippine boxing before the emergence of Manny Pacquiao.
He turned professional in 1984 and won the WBA bantamweight title in 1989 by knocking out Kaokor Galaxy in the first round. Espinosa defended the title twice before losing it to Israel Contreras by a fifth-round knockout in 1991.
He climbed back to the top under the tutelage of Joe Koizumi and in 1995, he won the WBC featherweight title by outpointing Manuel Medina. In his first title defense, Espinosa knocked out Alejandro “Cobrita” Gonzalez in the 4th round in Mexico. He then took on the hard-hitting body-puncher César Soto at the Rizal Park (Luneta) in Manila and hammered out a unanimous decision. He defended the title seven times before losing the belt in 1999 to Soto. The following year, he challenged Guty Espadas, Jr. for the vacant WBC featherweight title, but he was outboxed and lost by technical decision.
Espinosa retired in 2005 after being knocked out by Cristóbal Cruz.
He entered the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene by training brothers Nick and Nate Diaz. Espinosa also became a trainer of the University of San Francisco’s Boxing team and has relocated to Hong Kong where he is based since 2014.
WITH JOSEF RAMOS