Court decides Povetkin-Wilder Summary Judgment motions

April 20, 2018

The Southern District of New York has ruled on dueling Summary Judgment motions from Alexander Povetkin and his promoter of World of Boxing and Deontay Wilder.  In a ruling issued Thursday, the court has granted in part and denied in part both parties’ motions.   However, a closer read reflects that World of Boxing made out better than Wilder.

Opinion and Order by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

The Court first notes that despite a jury trial finding that Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1, 2016, he did not breach the bout agreement.

From the Court opinion:

It has been conclusively determined as a result of the jury trial in this matter that Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1, 2016.  It is undisputed that Povetkin’s urine sample provided to VADA on April 27, 2016 tested positive for Meldonium. Nonetheless, neither of these is a breach of the Bout Agreement.

The opinion relies on the contract terms and the rules agreed to by the parties infers that there it “does not require absolute abstinence from the use of banned substances, but by its terms requires that the boxer abide by “WBC anti-doping requirements.”  In turn, the CBP also provides that “the WBC shall have complete discretion to rule on culpability . . . . [And] may in its discretion consider all factors in making a determination regarding responsibility, relative fault, and penalties, if any.”

One might consider this a broad interpretation of the contractual provision regarding banned substances.   The Court goes on to essentially tell us that the jury trial didn’t matter because the WBC didn’t believe it could determine that Povetkin did not violate the Bout Agreement:

In this case, after issuing several conflicting and indecisive rulings, the WBC finally decided on November 7, 2017 that notwithstanding the jury’s verdict in this case, it would adhere to its earlier decision that it was not possible to determine whether Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1, 2016.  In other words, the WBC exercised its discretion to determine that Povetkin did not violate the CBP [Clean Boxing Program, the drug testing entered into by the boxers].”

In addition, the Court has released the escrow funds held up by Deontay Wilder after the fight did not go forward.  However, the Court did not grant WOB the $2.5 million in liquidated damages that was included in the escrow agreement which would have been triggered if it was found that there was a breach.  The Court noted that there was not a judgment filed against Wilder and that his representatives made the objection for disbursement in accordance with the agreement.  The Court did not find a breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. It also did not find Wilder guilty of breaching the Bout Agreement for not showing up in Russia for the fight as the Court opines that there was no evidence of his absence for the fight in Russia caused the cancellation.

A teleconference on the case will take place on April 26th.  At this point, the only claim that is left is WOB’s defamation claim which was stayed by the Court.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that the long, winding road of this litigation may be over pending an appeal.  And, it would not surprise me if an appeal would be in order.  The opinion essentially mutes any reason for the February 2017 jury trial which found that Povetkin ingested Meldonium post-January 2016.  The Court relies on the WBC’s later ruling on the matter to conclude that there was no actual breach of the Bout Agreement.  Frankly, the claim that “absolute abstinence” from taking banned substance is not a part of the Bout Agreement, rather compliance with the drug regulator is absurd.  Not only does it parse the meaning of the reason behind not taking banned substances, it is a “lawyerly” way around taking a hard-line approach on illegal drugs.

 

The issue of the Escrow Agreement is another interesting ruling but one that seems to have been decided correctly.  Although one might infer that Wilder attempted to hold up payment (or reimbursement) to WOB or Povetkin, it was the correct way to decide the disbursement of funds.  I don’t think that this part of the matter will be over yet.

 

MMA Payout will have more on this in the coming days.

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