By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Heavyweight boxing champion Deontay Wilder has won a fight with Russian boxer Alexander Povetkin – not in the ring, but in the courthouse – in a trial over a title bout that was called off after the Russian tested positive for a banned substance.
After less than an hour, a federal jury in Manhattan on Monday ruled in favor of Wilder in a civil trial, finding that Povetkin ingested meldonium after a World Anti-Doping Agency ban of the drug went into effect in January 2016.
That question had become key to dueling lawsuits the boxers had filed against each other over the championship boxing match scheduled for May 21 in Moscow, which was called off after Povetkin tested positive on April 27 for meldonium.
Lawyers for Wilder and promoter DiBella Entertainment Inc had argued that Povetkin’s positive urine test came after three negative ones earlier in April, which meant that the Russian took the drug after passing the earlier tests.
But lawyers for Povetkin and promoter Andrew Ryabinskiy’s company, World of Boxing LLC, said he had, like many other athletes, taken meldonium at a doctor’s direction before the World Anti-Doping Agency had even announced plans to ban it.
Judd Burstein, a lawyer for Wilder, said he was “extremely happy” with the verdict. Povetkin’s lawyer, Kent Yalowitz, on Monday called the verdict an “outrageous miscarriage of justice” and indicated he would seek to have it thrown out.
The lawsuits came after the World Boxing Council announced on May 13 that Povetkin had tested positive for meldonium and subsequently announced the postponement of his bout with champion Wilder.
In June, Wilder and DiBella sued Povetkin and Ryabinskiy’s World of Boxing LLC, saying they were owed at least $5 million for the defendants’ breach of a contract requiring Povetkin to be produced for the match.
Povetkin and World of Boxing soon after countersued, seeking $34.5 million for what they said was Wilder’s own breach of contract for walking away from the fight and defamation for engaging in a “smear campaign.”
The World Boxing Council in August announced that, based on scientific and medical information it received, it was not possible to determine whether Povetkin ingested meldonium after Jan. 1, 2016, when it was officially banned.
In December, a super heavyweight title bout between Povetkin and Haitian-born Canadian Bermane Stiverne was called off after the Russian tested positive for a different banned substance, ostarine.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)