Lennox Lewis claims promoter Don King made death threats against one of Mike Tyson's friends and bribed another in an effort to get Tyson to back out of a deal to fight Lewis in a heavyweight title rematch.
Attorneys for Lewis filed suit in a New York court on Thursday seeking up to US$385 million for what they said was a plot by King to snatch Tyson away from his current promoters and get the former champion to fight for him again.
The suit claims King cost Lewis US$10 million by keeping Tyson off of a June 21 fight card in Los Angeles and another US$25 million by stopping him from signing a deal for an eventual rematch between the two fighters.
The suit alleges that King threatened the life of Tyson's friend and adviser, Los Angeles agent Jeff Wald, and conspired with a female friend of Tyson's to keep him sequestered in a New York hotel last month, preventing him from signing the Lewis contract.
"What happened was disgraceful," Lewis attorney Judd Burstein said. "Don King should be hanging his head in shame."
The lawsuit also alleges that King bought Tyson several cars and put them in someone else's name because Tyson still owes the Internal Revenue Service millions of US dollars in back taxes.
The suit claims that King is desperate to get Tyson back because he fears losing a US$100 million lawsuit Tyson filed against him when they split six years ago for allegedly stealing money from him. That suit is scheduled to go to trial in September, and attorneys for Lewis claim that King is afraid it will bankrupt him.
King did not immediately return a phone call to his Florida office. The suit was filed on behalf of Lewis and his Lion Promotions company. It names Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson Enterprises, Don King and Don King Productions as defendants.
According to the suit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Manhattan, Tyson was supposed to fight as a co-main event fighter on the June 21 card as part of a contract that would allow him to fight two more bouts after that and then meet Lewis in a rematch of his knockout loss last June in Memphis.
Attorneys for Lewis said Tyson's manager, Shelly Finkel, and his attorney had agreed to the contract, but that Tyson refused to sign it once King started pursuing him.
As part of that pursuit, the suit alleged, King paid for expensive hotel suites last month in New York for Tyson and a friend of his, Jackie Rowe, and gave Tyson large amounts of cash.
The suit claims King bribed Rowe to keep Tyson away from his manager and lawyer and to keep telling him that he should not agree to fight on June 21 in Los Angeles because he would be an undercard fighter and treated as a "second class citizen."
"This case typifies the sad state of boxing today: a sport populated by athletes who refuse to honor their contractual commitments and corrupt promoters, such as Don King, who will stop at nothing -- including even death threats, tax evasion and bribery -- to advance their own causes," the suit claims.