What was the court thinking in Povetkin-Wilder?

April 26, 2018

The ruling in the Alexander Povetkin-Deontay Wilder case last week was a surprise for many that have been following the case.

Opinion and Order by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd


The lawsuit was based upon a drug test which Povetkin failed in lead-up to a fight with Wilder in Russia.  Wilder did not travel to Russia after learning of the failed drug test.  Wilder first sued Povetkin and his promoter World of Boxing as a result of Povetkin’s failed test.  Povetkin filed counterclaims against Wilder for failing to go to Russia 7 days prior to the bout date to which Povetkin claims was a breach of the Bout Agreement.  He also filed defamation claims against Wilder for bad-mouthing the heavyweight after drug test results revealed he took Meldonium.

The Court opinion deciding the Summary Judgment motions relied on the Bout Agreement which was subject to the World Boxing Council’s Rules and Regulations.  It cited language in the Agreement which stated that “any dispute or controversy” would be bound by the Rules and Regulations of the WBC.

Another layer of this dispute revolves around purse money placed in escrow for the fight.  Wilder had written the escrow company to hold the money until a court decided the outcome.  Povetkin and World of Boxing objected to this and sued claiming a violation of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.  In addition, they claimed that Wilder had violated the terms of the Bout Agreement and should be subject to a liquidated damages clause of $2.5 million.  Wilder was due $4.5 million to fight Povetkin while Povetkin was due $1.9 million.  In addition, there was a $715,000 bonus for the winner.

In February 2017, a jury just took 32 minutes to determine that Povetkin took the banned substance Meldonium post-January 1, 2016, however that did not mean much in the outcome of this Summary Judgment motion.

One of the overarching issues in the lawsuit as to who is to blame for the failed fight in Russian in May 2016.  You might infer from the news of a failed drug test from Povetkin that it was the Russian.  However, Povetkin claimed that Wilder’s failure to appear in Russia forced the hand of the regulating body, the WBC, to call off the fight.

The WBC Bout Agreement takes precedent here as the Court examines the contract in applying basic contract principles.  But in its application, there seem to be things that don’t make sense.

“We begin by noting that the Bout Agreement contains no language mandating that each fighter refrain from ingesting banned substances.”

The inference one might yield from this sentence of the Court opinion is that tis ok to used banned substances.  Based on this, the Court held that Povetkin did not breach the Bout Agreement because it cannot conclude when/if he ingested the banned substance Meldonium. Obviously, this is opposite the jury finding.

The good news for Wilder is that there was no finding of a breach of the Bout Agreement when Wilder did not go to Russia for the fight with Povetkin.  The Court notes, “[t]here is simply no evidence that the WBC’s postponement decision was a “normal or foreseeable consequence” of Wilder’s actions, or that Wilder’s acts otherwise caused the WBC’s decision.”  Povetkin and World of Boxing sought $2.5 million in liquidated damages that was part of the Escrow Agreement.  “While the WOB Parties argue that it was Wilder’s failure to appear in Moscow, rather than Povetkin’s positive test result, that caused the WBC to postpone the Bout…no reasonable jury could indulge in the speculation that would be required to conclude that this was so,” stated the Court opinion.  It went on to state, “[B]ecause a reasonable jury could not find that any breach by the Wilder Parties proximately caused the WOB Parties’ damages, the Wilder Parties’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the WOB Parties’ claim for breach of the Bout Agreement is granted.”

As for the escrow funds, World of Boxing is entitled to its release held in escrow but no interest because no judgment was entered against Wilder.

The claims for defamation filed by Povetkin remain although they may be dismissed pending further movement in this case.

The Court opinion seems to fly in the face of the original jury finding that Povetkin took Meldonium post-January 2016.  The opinion seems to lean entirely on the WBC Agreement for its determination on its procedure in determining the status of Povetkin based upon his drug tests.  The Court quotes WBC Rules and Regulations when it notes, “the WBC may in its discretion consider all factors in making a determination regarding responsibility, relative fault, and penalties, if any.”

The WBC did not issue a ruling on Povetkin’s positive drug test until August 17, 2016.  It noted that it called the bout off and reserved any further ruling.  It then determined that it was not “possible to ascertain that Mr. Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1, 2016.  After two additional rulings by the WBC which opposed the August 17, 2016 ruling, it overturned the decision and stuck with its August ruling.  It based this on a study showing Meldonium having the ability to stay in one’s system for more than five months.  It also noted Povetkin had negative drug tests six other times.

The WBC seemed to be dragging its feet in this case as it put off the ruling on Povetkin despite the litigation moving ahead.  There’s also the issue of Povetkin’s positive test for ostarine which happened after the lawsuit began.  Yet, the WBC did not penalize him for this and even stressed negative drug tests notwithstanding the two positive tests for Meldonium and ostarine.

This ruling seems ripe for an appeal.  The jury verdict seems to fly in the face of the Court’s ruling last week which seemed to defer to the WBC’s handling of the Povetkin matter.  Wilder’s side may just put this case behind them unless Povetkin is allowed to pursue its defamation claim.

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