their contributions of time, effort, risk and resources sustain the profession in existence" have the benefit of a "firm, intelligent and objectively administered control of the World Championships of boxing." Regulations, Preamble, paras. 3, 4.
The language of Regulation 6 is clear and unambiguous: it means that plaintiff Ayala should be able to rely on the fact that as the third-ranked contender, two and only two men now stand between him and his turn for the title. This Court has no doubt that Ayala has a protectible property interest, as created by the WBA in Regulation 6, in having the opportunity to fight for the championship before any lower-ranked boxer.
During the course of this litigation, both the WBA and Intervenor Arum have admitted that Regulation 6 creates an enforceable property interest. It is their position, however, that such an interest is conferred by the regulation only upon the Number One ranked contender, at the moment, Ayub Kalule. They argue that Regulation 6 means that the leading contender may exercise this property right as he sees fit, either deciding to fight for the championship himself, or conveying "his" right to fight for the title to whomever he wishes, regardless of ranking.
This Court finds that such a reading of Regulation 6 is completely untenable. The plain language of the regulation requires the champion to fight the "leading available contender" within ninety days. If Regulation 6 had been intended to confer this property right only upon the "leading contender," it would have said so. The regulation speaks, however, in terms of the leading " available " contender. That language can only mean that if the Number One ranked boxer is "unavailable" to fight, either because he is unwilling or unable to do so, the opportunity for the title must be given to the next available ranked boxer in line.
Despite the WBA's avowed dedication to protecting the interests of "all boxers" and of ensuring uniformity and fairness in the application of its regulations, defendant's interpretation of Regulation 6 would lead to gross abuses of the system. Under the WBA's view, the top-ranked fighter could, merely by declaring his "availability" and the "consenting" to his replacement by another fighter of his choice, permit anyone to fight for the championship without violating Regulation 6. Were this interpretation to prevail, however, promoters could obtain the WBA's championship sanction for any fight they wished, simply by "buying off" the Number One contender. Surely, Regulation 6 cannot be an invitation to wealthy, self-interested promoters to circumvent the rankings and extinguish the painfullyearned expectations of top-ranked boxers, merely by dangling tempting blandishments in front of the eyes of Number One.
Therefore, although the WBA's interpretation of its own regulation is entitled to deference, we cannot accept an argument that is obviously unjust, plainly erroneous and inconsistent with the purposes of the WBA regulations. Lukens Steel Co. v. Klutznick, 629 F.2d 881, 886 (3d Cir. 1980). The property interest conferred by Regulation 6 does not belong to the Number One contender alone, but rather gives plaintiff Ayala the right to expect that he will be offered the opportunity to fight the champion before anyone below him in the rankings.
DENIAL OF PROPERTY WITHOUT PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS
There is no question that plaintiffs have been denied the property interest they possess by virtue of Ayala's ranking and Regulation 6 without procedural due process of law. Although there is some uncertainty in the record, see n. 8, supra, it appears that the WBA sanctioned the Moore-Weir fight as a championship fight before this lawsuit was commenced. As of the date the action was initiated, plaintiffs were neither officially informed that a lower-ranked boxer would be getting a title bout nor were they informed of the reasons for that decision or given an opportunity to object. That not one iota of procedural due process was accorded plaintiffs is not surprising since the WBA and Intervenor Arum have consistently maintained before and during the litigation that Regulation 6 confers no property interest on Ayala. Therefore, because in the WBA's view, a Moore-Weir championship could be sanctioned without any regard for Ayala's interests or expectations without offending Regulation 6, it did not give Ayala's interests any consideration.
After this litigation began, and once the WBA realized that its interpretation of Regulation 6 might not be endorsed by this Court, it sought to change the rules "in the middle of the game" by invoking Regulation 19. The WBA claims that Regulation 19 gives it the complete discretion to suspend any other regulation, including Regulation 6, as long as the approval of the WBA President, two-thirds of the members of the Championships Committee, and a majority of the Executive Committee is obtained.
First of all, it is not at all clear that, by its own wording Regulation 19 was properly invoked. Plaintiffs argue that the Championships Committee which approved the Moore-Weir fight was improperly constituted since it did not contain the four regional vice-presidents of the WBA as required by By-law 2, para. 2. The response of the WBA and Intervenor Arum that the by-law was changed several years ago cannot be credited in light of their failure to provide the Court with any documentation of such a change. Under the only set of by-laws with which this Court has been provided, the WBA failed to comply with the requirements of Regulation 19 and therefore has not, as yet, suspended Regulation 6. This failure alone, coupled with the WBA's continuing sanction of the Moore-Weir fight in violation of Regulation 6, constitutes a denial of plaintiffs' due process rights.
Furthermore, this Court has serious doubt whether a denial of due process can be corrected by an ex post facto invocation of Regulation 19, after the Moore-Weir fight had been sanctioned and after plaintiffs had filed this lawsuit.
Even if Regulation 19 was invoked in accordance with its own terms, and at a proper time, it is clear that plaintiffs have still been denied procedural due process. Despite the fact that Regulation 19 gives the WBA discretion to suspend Regulation 6, such discretion must be exercised in accordance with procedural due process. This has been the law since at least 1926. In Goldsmith v. Board of Tax Appeals, 270 U.S. 117, 70 L. Ed. 494, 46 S. Ct. 215 (1926), the Supreme Court considered a situation in which the petitioner was a lawyer who had been refused admission to practice before the Board of Tax Appeals. The Board had published rules establishing criteria for admission to its bar. The Board's rules further provided that it could in its discretion deny admission to any applicant. The Board denied admission to petitioner under its discretionary power, without a prior hearing and a statement of reasons for the denial. Although the Court disposed of the case on other grounds, it stated, in an opinion by Chief Justice Taft, that the existence of the Board's eligibility rules gave the petitioner an interest and claim to practice before the Board to which procedural due process requirements applied. It said that the Board's discretionary power "must be construed to mean the exercise of a discretion to be exercised after fair investigation, with such a notice, hearing and opportunity to answer for the applicant as would constitute due process." Id. at 123.
Procedural due process requires, at a minimum, that an aggrieved party receive an opportunity to be heard and a statement by the decisionmaker of the reasons for the outcome. Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 553, 16 L. Ed. 2d 84, 86 S. Ct. 1045 (1966). It is undisputed that plaintiffs were given no opportunity to present their case before either President Sanchez or the Championships Committee nor does the record indicate that either of them gave plaintiffs or anyone else a reason for their decision to suspend Regulation 6. Although plaintiffs' counsel was afforded the opportunity to make a short statement to the Executive Committee on March 27, 1982, the record suggests that the outcome may have been predetermined and indicates that no reasons were given for the ultimate decision. Procedural due process demands more than a perfunctory hearing before a body that has virtually made up its mind, that refuses to give reasons for its decision and that was hastily marshalled in order to obviate a lawsuit.
DENIAL OF PROPERTY WITHOUT SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS
The WBA and Intervenor Arum contend that Regulation 19 affords the WBA complete discretion to suspend its other regulations for whatever reasons it deems appropriate. The law is quite clear, however, that although the WBA has the discretion under Regulation 19 to suspend Regulation 6, it must exercise that discretion in a non-arbitrary manner consistent with the purposes of its regulations.
In Winsett v. McGinnes, 617 F.2d 996 (3d Cir. 1980) (in banc), cert. denied sub nom. Anderson v. Winsett, 449 U.S. 1093, 66 L. Ed. 2d 822, 101 S. Ct. 891 (1981), the Third Circuit confronted a situation in which a state prisoner who met all of the eligibility requirements established by department regulations was denied work release by prison authorities exercising discretion for reasons which plaintiff claimed were impermissible. The trial court had held, in the words of the Third Circuit, that:
"whenever a State conditions an otherwise protectible interest on the outcome of a highly discretionary process however arbitrary and inadequate in practice, the interest is defeasible and not entitled to due process safeguards."