NEW YORK -- Boxing promoter Don King filed a defamation suit Wednesday claiming he was portrayed in a false light in an ESPN SportsCentury segment aired last May, and his attorney said King is entitled to damages of more than $2.5 billion.
The lawsuit says the program accused King of being "a snake oil
salesman, a shameless huckster and worse," claimed the flamboyant
promoter underpaid Muhammad Ali by $1.2 million and claimed King --
convicted in a 1967 beating death and acquitted in another killing
in 1954 -- "killed not once, but twice."
Most of the material in the program had been printed or
broadcast earlier about King, who has spent much of his career in
court, but he said he had just had enough.
"I just felt that this was the straw that broke the camel's
back and I can't take it anymore, and I'm going to fight back,"
King said at a news conference. "I seek justice."
King, wearing a garish American flag tie and two flag lapel
pins, then quietly stepped back and let lawyer Willie Gary answer
Gary called the SportsCentury segment "a story designed to
orchestrate and create an impression that is not there," and said
the network had refused to retract parts of the program that
The suit, filed in state court in Broward County, Fla., names
ESPN and its parent company, Walt Disney Co., among the defendants.
Also named are Disney-owned ABC Cable Networks, which actually
controls ESPN, and Advocate Communications, a Florida-based cable
and satellite system.
"We aren't going to comment on pending litigation," said Mike Soltys, ESPN's vice
president of communications.
The suit also says SportsCentury accused King of threatening to
break the legs of heavyweight Larry Holmes and of cheating boxer
Meldrick Taylor out of $1 million from a fight and then threatening
to have Taylor killed.
"It was slanted to show Don in the worst way. It was one-sided
from day one," Gary said. "Don is a strong man, but he has been
hurt by this."
King has represented fighters from Ali to Mike Tyson, and has
been sued by several of them -- including a $100 million lawsuit
filed against him by Tyson. King paid $7.5 million to former
middleweight champion Terry Norris in late 2003 to settle a suit.
King sued former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis for libel.
King was charged with federal tax evasion and fraud but was not convicted. He served nearly four years in prison for the 1967 beating death of a man who owed him money. In 1954, he killed a man who was robbing a numbers house he operated in Cleveland, but it was ruled self-defense.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.