The eight page suit says an ESPN programme that aired on May 14th 2004 defamed King and strung together false statements that “intentionally and recklessly portrayed Don King in a false light.”

Speaking at a New York press conference Mr King, who has spent much of his legendary career in a courtroom, claimed the program “put me in a false light and slanted and twisted the truth.”

“There were a lot of outright falsehoods in that program. I felt this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m going to fight back. I’m going to stand up and fight for my rights.”

The suit claims the programme accused Mr King of being “a snake oil salesman and a shameless huckster” and listed 10 statements it claimed were defamatory.

Among them are accusations Mr King of threatening to break the legs of heavyweight Larry Holmes and that he cheated boxer Meldrick Taylor out of US$1m from a fight and then threatened to have Taylor killed.

King’s lawyer, Willie Gary, called the case “one of the worst examples of reckless broadcast journalism and blatant disregard for the truth”.

“They depicted this man as a thief that would take from a sick, run-down hospital in a black community,” he said.

“We have not seen a copy of the lawsuit, so we are not in a position to comment on it,” ESPN said in a statement.

Mr King has been on the receiving end of court action in the past.

In 1967 he was convicted of a beating death in Cleveland and served four years in prison.

Thirteen years later, he was acquitted of another murder.

The promoter was acquitted of tax evasion charges in 1985 and acquitted of insurance fraud in 1998.

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