A California appeals court has allowed a lawsuit brought by a Hollywood restaurant employee against Manny Pacquiao to proceed. Gabriel Rueda is demanding a finder’s fee for supposedly setting up the 2015 blockbuster boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. Rueda, also known as Gabriel Salvador,was an acquaintance of Pacquiao’s legendary trainer, Freddie Roach, because his son occasionally worked out at Roach’s Wild Card Gym. When CBS chief executive Les Moonves came into Rueda’s restaurant, Rueda told him he could “help get this fight going.” He subsequently set up a meeting between Moonves and Roach that he claims was instrumental to the deal.

Rueda sued the Pacquiao team in California state court to recover the “finder’s fee” that he alleges Roach promised him, which was 2% of the gross proceeds paid to CBS and its subsidiary Showtime, as well as subsequent damages for extortion and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

On Thursday, an appellate panel dismissed Pacquiao’s anti-SLAPP motion, allowing the case to move forward. California’s anti-SLAPP law allows defendants to bring a motion to strike a complaint “brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.” The defendants argued their statements at the meeting with Rueda were protected because they spoke in “anticipation of litigation.” The court rejected this, finding that the parties saw litigation as a “mere possibility” at the time, which is insufficient for an anti-SLAPP motion to succeed.

Buddy Bardenwerper is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).

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