Former British and Commonwealth heavyweight boxing champion Julius Francis today accepted ‘‘substantial’’ undisclosed libel damages.
It followed newspaper allegations that he ripped off the boxing public by not doing his best to win his fight with Mike Tyson in Manchester last year.
His manager, Frank Maloney, who manages current world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis as well as Mr Francis, also accepted substantial damages and a public apology over an article in the Daily Star in February last year in Dawn Neesom’s weekly column under the heading ‘‘Ripped off by Julius Freezer’’.
Mr Richard Hartley QC, counsel for Mr Francis and Mr Maloney, told Mr Justice Gray in the High Court in London today:
‘‘The overall tenor of the article was that they had sold the integrity of their sport for financial gain and were a disgrace to boxing.’’
He said Mr Francis fought Mike Tyson, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, that in Manchester on January 29, 2000.
‘‘It was Mr Tyson’s first fight in this country and attracted a great deal of publicity,’’ Mr Hartley went on.
The fight was broadcast on Sky Television.
‘‘The fight was stopped in the second round when the referee awarded the bout to Mr Tyson.
‘‘The Sky commentators, who included four former world boxing champions, were unanimous in their praise for the great courage shown by Mr Francis during the fight, particularly as he had been subjected to very powerful punches from the most formidable of opponents and had been knocked down four times but had bravely risen to his feet on each occasion to continue the bout.’’
On February 3, 2000, the Daily Star article ‘‘attacked the integrity and honesty of the claimants (Mr Francis and Mr Maloney) in that it implied that Mr Francis, with the connivance of Mr Maloney, had conned and ripped off the boxing public by not doing his best to win and, indeed, not even bothering to train properly.
‘‘It also accused Mr Francis of pretending to be badly hurt and distressed by his defeat when in fact he was not hurt or distressed at all.’’
Mr Hartley said the allegations were ‘‘wholly untrue and should never have been made’’ and added:
‘‘Mr Francis underwent the most rigorous training in preparation for the fight and was always determined to fight to the very best of his ability.’’
The defendants, Ms Dawn Neesom, assistant editor of the Daily Star, and Express Newspapers Ltd, the publishers, had agreed to pay Mr Francis and Mr Maloney ‘‘a substantial sum by way of damages and to pay all their costs on an indemnity basis’’.
Mr Geoffrey Shaw QC, for the defendants, told the court: ‘‘For their part the defendants welcome this opportunity to withdraw their allegations against Mr Francis and Mr Maloney and to apologise to them for the distress and embarrassment they have been caused which was not their intention".
Afterwards Mr Francis, 36, who has his next fight on April 3, said: ‘‘I suppose I am happy, but as far as I was concerned what was said should not have been said in the first place.
‘‘Anyone who saw the fight or had anything to do with it knew I had tried my best.’’