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Trash-talking to Defending Defamation – How to Respond to Potential Defamatory Comments

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The recent war of words between professional boxers Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker has reignited the debate about the difference between harmless pre-fight trash talk and personal defamation.

hlwKH logoIt is usual for boxers to exchange heated words in the run up to a fight in order to maximise publicity and garner further interest. However, it has recently been widely reported that Joseph Parker has referred to Joshua as “King of Steroids”. Parker went on to state that: “I am not accusing him of using steroids, but I am saying it is a possibility.”

So, does this remark potentially stray into defamation territory?

For a defamation claim to be successful there must have been a defamatory statement - i.e. one that lowers the claimant in the estimation of reasonable people generally. Crucially, for a statement to be defamatory it must have ‘caused or be likely to cause serious harm to the individual’.  Arguably, it appears that, given the importance of a sportsperson’s reputation -  and in view of Joshua’s many commercial partnerships - Parker’s statement could be deemed to have caused serious harm to Joshua.

It is possible that should Joshua choose to take action, Parker would rely on an absolute defence to a defamation claim – by saying that the statement made is true. It is worth noting however, that the burden of proof in respect of a truth defence lies with the defendant, who must show that the statement is true. In the absence of any evidence of steroid use, such a defence would of course appear to be likely to fail.

There is little doubt that Joshua will have taken legal advice in relation to Parker’s statements. Interestingly though, he has taken a relaxed approach to them - which seems to have negated any potentially negative press criticising the comments. This emphasises the need to take a commercial approach as well as considering the legal position.

When considering how best to respond to potentially defamatory comments, always take expert advice from a solicitor who is experienced in defamation law and dispute resolution and can therefore guide you on the most appropriate course of action.

For more information, contact Andrew Broadbent on 0114 252 1416 or andrewbroadbent@hlwkeeblehawson.co.uk

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