Boxers spar in court over failed bout agreement
June 26, 2016
Although Deontay Wilder is scheduled to fight Chris Arreola on Fox next month, he’s embroiled in a court battle against Alexander Povetkin and his promoter, Andrey Ryabinskiy due to a purported failed drug test which scratched the fight between the two.
On June 13, 2016, Wilder filed a lawsuit against Povetkin, Ryabinskiy and World of Boxing, LLC (“WOB”) for breach of contract and seeking the court for a declaratory judgment. In addition to the money that has been put up in escrow for the fight
10 days later, World of Boxing, Povetkin and Ryabinkiy (“WOB”) filed sued against Wilder, Lou DiBella and DiBella Entertainment, Wilder’s promoters. WOB is filing claiming causes of action for breach of contract as well as defamation.
Both lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District for the Southern District of New York.
Wilder and DiBella Entertainment, Inc. v. World of Boxing, LLC and Alexander Povetkin
The lawsuit claims breach of contract against WOB and Povetkin.
The facts, as told by Wilder’s attorney are below. Also added, are additional facts from the WOB lawsuit which we identify as well.
- The World Boxing Council (“WBC”) ordered Wilder and Povetkin (as the mandatory challenger) to begin negotiations for Wilder’s mandatory title defense of his WBC World Heavyweight Championship.
- No agreement could be made and a purse bid was ordered. WOB won the purse bid at a price of $7.15M. Notably, the WOB lawsuit claims DiBella’s bid was for $5.1M.
- The agreed payout would include 10% of the amount bid ($715K) to the winner as a bonus and then a 70-30 split thereafter. But, the parties still had to negotiate other parts of the fight including drug testing. The amount would also cover a 3% WBC sanction fee.
- According to the WOB lawsuit, Wilder would receive $4,504,500, Povetkin $1,930,500 and the winner would receive $715,000.
- Wilder’s side wanted to institute a drug program conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (“VADA”).
- Negotiations continued but suspicions by Wilder’s camp about Povetkin’s use of performance enhancing drugs increased.
- With the parties at an impasse, the WBC stepped in and instituted an agreement on April 6, 2016. In the agreement, the drug testing program included VADA testing under the “WBC Clean Boxing Program.”
- Since WOB won the purse bid, the fight was to take place in Moscow, Russia on May 21, 2016.
- An agreement was signed on April 11, 2016. A copy is attached to the Wilder Complaint and is below.
- On April 19, 2016 an Escrow Agreement was entered into in which $4,369,365 was put into an Escrow (identified as Chicago Title in the WOB lawsuit). The Escrow Agreement contained a (confidential per Wilder’s attorneys) liquidated damages provision.
- Povetkin tested positive for Meldonium in an April 27, 2016 test.
- The WBC issued a ruling that the fight would not take place as scheduled.
- Wilder’s side advised the Escrow Agent not to disburse any of the money in escrow until it received a “joint instruction from the parties or a non-appealable order from a court of competent jurisdiction.”
Word of Boxing, LLC, et al. v. Deontay Wilder, et al.
The WOB lawsuit mitigates the finding that Povetkin tested positive for Meldonium. This substance was the same one that tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive for and has received a two-year ban from the International Tennis Federation. In the UFC, Islam Makhachev tested positive for Meldonium and was pulled from the UFC on Fox 19 card. The ban on Meldonium was instituted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) on January 1, 2016. It was added to the list of banned substances and notice was given to athletes three months earlier in September 2015.
However, earlier this year, WADA acknowledged that there was a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times. Thus, this new revelation may actually overturn certain notices of infraction. In fact, this was noted by WOB’s attorneys in its lawsuit.
It argues that Meldonium found in Povetkin’s sample were traces and could not impact an athlete’s performance. It should be noted that both “A” and “B” samples found Meldonium. Povetkin admits to using Meldonim in 2015, prior to its ban. But, the facts reflect that he had a negative sample in April 7 and 8, 2016 but then tested positive in an April 27, 2016 sample.
WOB’s breach of contract claim cites that Wilder did not allow the WBC, the governing body for this fight, make a determination on the Povetkin drug test. Rather, Wilder and his promotion decided not to participate which WOB claims as the breach.
It also cites a breach of the escrow agreement with respect to the monies lodged in an Escrow Account which was to pay for the purses. WOB claims that since the bout did not occur, it should receive its money back from the trust but Wilder has “taken actions to prevent Chicago Trust from releasing such funds…including through a letter directing Chicago Trust to refrain from disbursing the Escrow Property to World of Boxing.
The defamation claim is rather unique as it claims Wilder and his promotion arm instituted a “Smear Campaign” against Povetkin. The WOB Complaint lists multiple news reports where it claims Lou DiBella and his promotion provided the outlets with false statements. WOB claims Povetkin did not cheat or lie and the “trace amounts” in Povetkin’s April 27, 2016 sample do not support the fact that he attempted to do so per the WOB lawsuit. WOB claims the statements were made to avoid their contractual obligation of Wilder having to fight in Moscow, Russia.
WOB is seeking $34.5M in its lawsuit. It is looking for the $4,369,365.000 in the Escrow Account and its defamation claim seeks $10 million.
Leave it to boxing to provide us with some of the more unique contractual legal issues in the sport. There is an issue of who breached the contract between the parties. Should Wilder have a claim due to the positive drug test from Povetkin? Or, does Povetkin side have an argument against Wilder for not following the WBC procedures? One has to think that Povetkin has a right to appeal the VADA ruling especially with the uncertainty of Meldonium. But, we see that the contentious negotiations between the parties have now spilled over into the courts. Wilder has found another fight in lieu of Povetkin. But, does Povetkin have a claim against Wilder for blocking funds to be returned to them in Escrow? It’s clear there is a liquidated damages provision in the Escrow Agreement of $2.5 million as both sides seek that it damages.
MMA Payout will keep you posted.