U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist subpoenaed five times in legal feud over boxing match

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 30, 2023

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports/File

Boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao meet ahead of their 2015 match. Journalist Lance Pugmire was subpoenaed five times as part of a lawsuit involving the match and his coverage of it while at the Los Angeles Times.

— Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports/File
June 30, 2023

Journalist Lance Pugmire was subpoenaed on June 30, 2023, as part of a lawsuit around a major boxing match he covered in 2015 while a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, according to court documents reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

It was one of five subpoenas Pugmire received in a plaintiff’s long-running lawsuit around finder’s fees for a 2015 boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. The match broke pay-per-view records at more than $400 million in sales, as Pugmire himself reported for the Times.

The plaintiff in the suit claims that Showtime, which televised the fight, as well as Pacquiao and his trainer, Frederick Roach, promised him a finder’s fee for helping to negotiate the fight. The plaintiff first subpoenaed Pugmire for testimony in 2018 to have him confirm that quotations from Roach in Pugmire’s articles about the fight were accurately attributed. That subpoena was quashed on procedural grounds.

The plaintiff, Showtime, Pacquiao and his trainer each subpoenaed the journalist for his testimony in June 2023 after a Showtime executive referenced a conversation with Pugmire in another deposition. The plaintiff also demanded that Pugmire produce correspondence with Showtime, the executive who had been deposed, and other executives involved in planning the fight.

On July 11, Pugmire objected to all of the subpoenas and refused to testify. The plaintiff then filed a motion to compel Pugmire’s cooperation with his subpoena. Defendants Showtime and Paramount Global, its parent company, also filed a motion to compel, claiming that Pugmire’s testimony would reveal “witness tampering” by the plaintiff.

In their opposition to the motions, Pugmire’s attorneys argued that California Shield Law and the reporter’s privilege wholly protect Pugmire. “The free flow of information to the public is jeopardized when litigants attempt to use the coercive power of the Court to turn journalists into witnesses and commandeer independent newsgathering efforts for parties’ private aims,” they wrote.

On Sept. 11, the court denied the motions to compel, agreeing that forcing Pugmire to comply would violate the state’s shield law and reporter’s privilege.

Pugmire’s attorney Karl Olson told the Tracker in October 2023 the parties should have been more respectful of the importance of the shield law. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Pugmire and the Times were dragged into this not once, but twice,” he said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].