No blow show in boxing match

When 1980s middleweight boxer Mark Kaylor and manager Terry Lawless squared up at London's Royal Courts of Justice recently their towels were thrown in almost without a punch being thrown.

The case, which had been expected to lift the lid on the fight game, ended up keeping it firmly in place. The Press had been preparing for a showdown over the alleged breach of fiduciary duty on the part of Lawless in his management of Kaylor, but it was left frustrated by a last-minute settlement on undisclosed terms.

Kaylor, 36, accused Lawless of putting his financial interests first. It was to be argued that a profit-sharing deal cut between Lawless and three other boxing gurus, Michael Barrett, Micky Duff and Jarvis Astaire, gave Lawless a "positive incentive" to keep Kaylor's purses down.

In his brief opening of the case, counsel Simon Devonshire told Mr Justice Timothy Lloyd that Lawless' participation in the agreement with Barrett, Duff and Astaire amounted to a "breach of his fiduciary duty".

He said it operated in such a way as to give Lawless a financial incentive to ensure Kaylor's purse was kept low and to arrange bouts for him that were promoted by the others. Lawless denied these allegations.

The case would have brought a crowd to the legal ringside, but the fact that Kaylor was legally aided, coupled with the practicalities of a settlement which included Lawless footing the legal bill for both sides, resulted in the towel being thrown in on day two. Day one was almost wholly taken up by the judge reading papers out of court.

Looking at the outcome, solicitor Tim Northrop, who came into the matter after being recommended to Kaylor by showbusiness clients, stresses the importance that legal aid considerations had to play in the settlement.

Northrop, a showbusiness specialist partner at Searles, says that in the circumstances there can be no doubt that the out-of-court deal was the best outcome for all.

"Some people think legal aid is a licence to do whatever you want but it's not," he says.

"Whatever your views of the person you are suing and what they have done, you cannot use legal aid to go on with the case in order to make your allegations public if that person has made a reasonable offer."

Northrop says one of the major problems in the case was that the documentation necessary to substantiate the allegations was thin on the ground. He says that one discovery application alone ran to almost 18 months.

In those circumstances, when the offer to settle was made, a fine balancing act had to be carried out by the legal team to decide at the end of the day if it was reasonable and worth accepting.

Northrop believes that for clients who have been involved in a long run-up to a case and who are psyched up for their day in court, the flurry of activity which so often ends in settlement can seem frustrating. This was so for Kaylor, but he fully understood the situation says Northrop.

He stresses that the issues can narrow as time passes and that this is why many bitter disputes in which settlement seems impossible can later settle at the doors of the court.

There were other fighters watching Kaylor v Lawless, but it seems they will now be reconsidering wether to have their day in court.