The Marquez Boxing Lawsuit? This Story Reads Like a Law School Exam!

Boxer Juan Manual Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao stone cold in their recent fight.  However, even before the fight, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, was convinced that Marquez was on performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  In fact, nearly two weeks before the fight, Roach allegedly said, “If [Marques's body] is natural, I will kiss his ass.”  After the fight, Marquez tested clean. He is now reportedly considering a defamation suit against Roach.  But it is not the defamation suit that has our attention.

It is the fact that Marquez appears to want specific performance on Roach’s offer.

Marquez recently stated,”Roach told me that if I would come out clean in the anti-doping tests, he would kiss my ass. The Nevada Commission has announced that [I was] negative for doping.  That means Roach has to kiss my ass and then some.”  The question: Can he get the specific performance he wants?  Of course not.

But, just for fun, let’s run through this fact pattern as if it were a law school exam question.

First, a contract is any transaction in which one or both parties make a legally enforceable promise.  The question is whether Roach’s promise to kiss Marquez’s ass is legal enforceable.  A promise is legally enforceable when it was made as part of a bargain for valid consideration or it reasonably induced the promisee to rely on the promise to his detriment. Marquez could certainly argue that he would have taken PEDs but for the offer made by Roach.  It is certainly a stretch. Moreover, Marquez already had a pre-existing duty not to use PEDs under the rules set forth by the Nevada Boxing Commission. Under the pre-existing duty rule, a promise regarding a pre-existing obligation to the other party does not constitute a legal detriment.

Second, if there was no contract, Marquez might attempt to assert promissory estoppel.  When a promisee foreseeably relies to his detriment on the promisor’s promise, even in the absence of an enforceable contract, the doctrine of promissory estoppel may be invoked to make such promise binding in order to prevent injustice.  The arguments for “detrimental reliance” would be intriguing in this case, but for the purposes of this brief analysis, we aren’t going there.

Finally, even if there were success on the aforementioned theory of recovery, would a judge really order the specific performance that Marquez appears to desire?  Specific enforcement is a remedy in the form of a court order that the breaching party render performance of the contract.  Specific performance is not available if money damages are adequate to put the aggrieved party in as good a position as he would have been had the contract been fully performed. Expectation damages are deemed to be an inadequate remedy where the subject matter is unique.  I suppose Marquez could argue that the subject matter is unique, but the judge would likely interpret Roach’s promise as being symbolic.  The embarrassment could arguably be replicated by awarding money damages.

Now, these certainly aren’t all the issues you could bring up on a word vomit law school exam.

You’d want to discuss things like unilateral contracts, acceptance by performance, inapplicability of the UCC, et cetera.  But you get the idea.

Comments

  1. specific performance says:

    A court would probably have a hard time applying Roach’s statement literally. I think Roach’s exact words should be interpreted more along the context of athletic competition. This is most likely better for policy because if we start holding laypeople legally committed to every word they say, then people will eventually turn into robots.

  2. Seems like a personal service contract, which can’t be specifically enforced under the 13th Amendment.

  3. Is it possible to claim promissory estoppel if you had a pre-existing duty not to do whatever it is you’re supposed to have done on the basis of the promise? That is, if Marquez were to argue that he avoided using PEDs on the basis of Roach’s promise, would it make a difference that he already had a duty not to use PEDs?