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World of Boxing LLC v. Don King

United States District Court, S.D. New York

October 1, 2014

WORLD OF BOXING LLC, VLADIMIR HRUNOV, and ANDREY RYABINSKIY, Plaintiffs,
v.
DON KING and DON KING PRODUCTIONS, Inc., Defendants

For Plaintiffs: Kent A. Yalowitz, Esq., Matthew D. Grant, Esq., Arnold & Porter, LLP, New York, NY.

For Defendants: T. Barry Kingham, Esq., Andrew B. Zinham, Esq., Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt and Mosle LLP, New York, NY.

Page 508

OPINION AND ORDER

Shira A. Scheindlin, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Vladimir Hrunov and Andrey Ryabinskiy are Russian boxing promoters who do business as World of Boxing (" WOB" ). Defendant Don King (" King" ) is an American boxing promoter who does business as Don King Productions. On January 28, 2014, King and WOB entered into an Agreement In Principle (" Agreement" ), in which King promised to produce Guillermo Jones (" Jones" ) for a bout against Denis Lebedev (" Lebedev" ) on April 25, 2014.[1] The day the bout was supposed to take place, Jones tested positive

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for furosemide, an illicit, performance-enhancing diuretic. The positive drug test precluded Jones from competing, and the bout was called off.

On May 28, 2014, WOB filed this suit. WOB alleges that King, by failing to produce a clean fighter, breached the Agreement.[2] King makes two arguments in his defense. First, he argues that the Agreement only required him to " do everything within his control. . . to cause Jones's participation" [3] -- because Jones's use of furosemide was not within King's control, it cannot be grounds for breach. Second, King argues that even if he did breach the Agreement, his failure to perform should be excused because performance was impossible. King has also filed two counterclaims, alleging that, in fact, WOB was the party responsible for violating the Agreement.[4]

On August 22, 2014, WOB moved for partial summary judgment on the question of contract liability. WOB seeks (1) a ruling that King is liable for breaching the Agreement, (2) dismissal of King's counterclaims, and (3) a judgment that WOB is entitled to reimbursement of funds from a disputed escrow account (" escrow funds" ).[5] For the reasons set forth below, WOB's motion is GRANTED as to liability, and GRANTED as to the dismissal of King's counterclaims. However, judgment on the escrow funds is reserved.[6]

II. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed. On May 17, 2013, Jones and Lebedev fought in a Cruiserweight Title Fight in Moscow, sanctioned by the World Boxing Association (" WBA" ), which Jones won by knockout in the eleventh round.[7] After the bout, however, Jones's urine tested positive for furosemide, prompting an investigation by the WBA. On October 17, 2013, the WBA found Jones guilty of using a banned substance, stripped him of the Cruiserweight title, and suspended him from WBA-sanctioned bouts for six months.[8]

On January 28, 2014, King and WOB finalized terms for a second administration of the Cruiserweight Title match between Lebedev and Jones. In the Agreement, King represented that he " holds the exclusive promotional rights for Jones," [9] and he promised to " cause Jones [] to participate" in the rematch.[10] The Agreement also imposed the following restrictions on Jones:

Jones must arrive in Moscow a minimum of 7 days before the Event and shall remain in Moscow until the Event. Jones also undertakes to be subjected to drug testing before and after the fight,

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in compliance with the rules of the WBA and the [2013 WBA ...

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