Don King Vs. ESPN In Defamation Suit

Boxing promoter Don King filed a defamation suit Jan. 12 claiming he was portrayed in a false light in an ESPN "SportsCentury" segment that aired in May. His attorney said King is entitled to damages

NEW YORK (AP) -- Boxing promoter Don King filed a defamation suit Jan. 12 claiming he was portrayed in a false light in an ESPN "SportsCentury" segment that aired in May. 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." The suit says the program claimed that the flamboyant promoter underpaid Muhammad Ali by $1.2 million and that 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, but King, who has spent much of his career in court, 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 an American flag tie and two flag lapel pins, then quietly stepped back and let lawyer Willie Gary answer questions.

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 offended King.

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 controls ESPN, and Advocate Communications, a Florida-based cable and satellite system.

"We have not seen a copy of the lawsuit, so we are not in a position to comment on it," said Mike Soltys, ESPN's VP of communications. "However, SportsCentury is a Peabody- and Emmy-Award winning series of more than 250 biographies that is widely respected for its journalistic quality and integrity."

King has represented fighters from Ali to Mike Tyson, and has been sued by several of them -- including a $100 million lawsuit filed 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 also has beaten federal charges, including tax evasion and fraud. 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.

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