Promoter King, left, claims Lewis sanctioned the damaging statements
Boxing promoter Don King is being allowed to sue retired world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in this country over remarks made on websites in the US.
Mr Justice Eady backed a decision by a senior High Court official to allow King to launch a libel claim against Lewis, his promotion company Lion Promotions LLC and his New York attorney Judd Burstein.
King alleges they branded him a bigoted anti-semite in comments made by Burstein and published on the boxingtalk.com and fightnews.com websites.
The ruling highlights the dangers of making statements that will be published on the internet, as the case involves one US citizen suing over statements made in America by another US citizen.
Dismissing the defendants’ argument that this rendered the English court an inappropriate venue for the legal bout, the judge said: “It seems to me that this misses the point about the nature of internet publications and the fact that English law regards the particular publications which form the subject matter of these actions as having occurred in England.”
The proceedings follow a near$400m (£215m) damages claim pending in the US launched by Lewis and Lion Promotions against King and former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in respect of interference with an agreement for a rematch between the boxers.
The libel claims stem from statements made by Burstein about that case, which King claims were sanctioned by either Lewis or Lion Promotions and which appeared on the two boxing websites in July 2003.
Mr Justice Eady said King complained that certain words used in the statements bore the meaning that he was a “persistent, bigoted and unashamed, or unrepentant, antisemite”.
Backing the decision to allow King to launch the claim in the English courts, Mr Justice Eady said the promoter had a “substantial reputation in England” and particular reliance had been placed on his recent participation in BBC television advertisements for its coverage of the FA Cup.
He said: “Indeed, there was evidence to the effect that Mr King may be the best known person in the world of boxing.”
However, King will only be able to claim for damage to his reputation suffered within England and Wales, not worldwide.
Lewis, Lion Promotions and Burstein appealed the decision and are expected to take their case to the Court of Appeal.
Last month Lewis’s business manager Adrian Ogun accepted an apology and damages from the BBC over comments made in a Radio Five Live interview with King.
By Roger Pearson