By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge found boxing promoter Don King liable for breach of contract over an April 25 World Boxing Association cruiserweight championship bout that was canceled after one of his fighters, challenger Guillermo Jones, failed a drug test.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said Jones' disqualification for testing positive for the diuretic furosemide, just a few hours before he was scheduled to fight Denis Lebedev in Moscow, "plainly put King in breach" even if the promoter had nothing to do with the failed test.
King had been sued for $2.4 million over the canceled fight by the Russian boxing promoters Andrey Ryabinskiy and Vladimir Hrunov, who do business as World of Boxing LLC.
Damages will be determined later. Scheindlin's decision is dated Oct. 1 and was made public on Thursday.
Don King Productions and King's lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to similar requests.
In seeking a dismissal, King claimed it was Ryabinskiy who canceled the fight, though the WBA was prepared to let it go on.
The 83-year-old King also said his fighters are "grown men who make their own decisions," and that he could not have been expected to monitor Jones so closely as to effectively "imprison" him, to keep him from using a banned substance.
"King could be right: under the circumstances, it is possible that his contractual obligations were too onerous to be enforceable," Scheindlin wrote. "But that question goes to whether King's failure to perform may be excused, not to whether King in fact failed to perform."
Jones had knocked out Lebedev in a May 2013 cruiserweight title fight, but was stripped of his title after failing another drug test, also for furosemide. The April 2014 fight had been the scheduled rematch.
The case is World of Boxing LLC et al v. King et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-03791.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)