Lennox Lewis may have retired from the ring, but following a recent court ruling he and his US lawyer Judd Berstein have a new fight against boxing promoter Don King.
The High Court has ruled that King can sue Lewis and Berstein for defamation in England in respect of allegations made on US-based websites.
This litigation has its roots in a court case in New York. There, Lewis and his promotions company are suing King and Mike Tyson for allegedly interfering with an agreement relating to a rematch of Lewis and Tyson’s world heavyweight title contest.
Berstein represented Lewis in those proceedings.
He and King traded blows in the press. On 5 July, 2003, www.fightnews.com published a piece in which Berstein accused King of anti-Semitism.
A similar allegation appeared on www.boxingtalk.com. Both sites are apparently popular and frequently accessed by boxing enthusiasts in the UK.
King issued proceedings for defamation in England, where the burden of demonstrating the truth of the allegation falls on the defendant, and, unlike in the US, there is no primary public figure defence.
Berstein and Lewis argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim. Mr Justice Eady rejected that.
In doing so, he confirmed a number of principles of English defamation law, including that the publication of an article on the internet occurs where it is downloaded.
That does not mean that a defendant is necessarily laid open to litigation in any jurisdiction with internet access.
For the English courts to be the appropriate forum, the claimant has to have a reputation in this country to protect.
Eady found that King has a substantial reputation in England, having promoted British boxers (including, of course, Lewis), and starred in the BBC’s FA Cup advertising campaign.
King’s claim accordingly survived.
Nick Hanbidge is an associate at Addleshaw Goddard