The Cleveland City Council approved a long overdue recognition of one of the city’s most famous natives, renaming a quarter-mile stretch of Shaker Boulevard in honor of global icon Don King, with a street designation that will soon reveal "Don King Way."
The legislation was sponsored by Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell and advocated for fellow Councilman Zack Reed and Mayor Frank Jackson, but several prominent community leaders such as The Rev. Emmitt Theophilus Caviness of Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church, Blane Griffith, City Community Relations Director were also instrumental in the effort.
King was born and raised in Cleveland and rose from humble beginnings, launching his career as a boxing promoter with a fundraiser to save the city’s Forrest City Hospital with Muhammad Ali as the headliner.
Throughout the next four decades he was elevate the sport into an unforeseen stratosphere with King promoting Ali and George Foreman in ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire in1974, still considered one of greatest fights in history.
King went on to establish new benchmarks in the boxing promotion business. Nearly 100 individual boxers have earned $1 million, or more, under Don King Productions-promoted events, including the first Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield fight shattered all previous viewing records for a boxing event, seen in more than 100 countries by more than two billion people.
Holyfield-Tyson II created even more attention, attracting 1.95 million domestic households in addition to a massive global audience. The live gate sold out in days as a crowd of 16,331 paid a record $14.2 million to see the fight in person. The fight became the most watched one-day event in sports history.
King made a commitment to provide quality fight cards, and in 1993 he staged a fight in Mexico headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez that featured four world championship bouts on one night. The public responded as 136,274 fans flocked to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico, and established a paid live-gate record of more than 132,000 that is still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Not just once, but twice, he has promoted fight cards with six world-title fights. In 1994 he staged a record 47 world-championship bouts.
Inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997, King was the only boxing promoter named to Sports Illustrated's list of the "40 Most Influential Sports Figures of the Past 40 Years." The New York Times published a list that included Don King among 100 African Americans who have helped shape this country's history during the last century.
“The thrill comes when these people, who would never normally come into contact with one another, work together on an event. They learn that no matter what color, race, religion or whatever you are, underneath the skin we are all the same on the inside," King stated.
King has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes and organizations. As a self-reminder of the economic hardship he endured growing up in the Cleveland ghetto, The Don King ‘Turkey Tour’ has been contributing for more than 40 years.
A longtime supporter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People the United Negro College Fund, the Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, National Hispanic Scholarship Fund, National Coalition of Title 1/Chapter 1 Parents, Wheelchair Charities, Our Children's Foundation among other organizations, charities, colleges and hospitals that has made him one of the world's leading philanthropists.
King has been bestowed with many honors, including the Black Achievement Award and being named Man of the Year by the Black United Fund and Brotherhood Crusade. Among his proudest moments was when he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's women's membership in 1987.
Cities including Newark, N.J., have declared "Don King Day" and presented him with official proclamations for "behind-the-scenes" contributions he's made towards community projects.
The NAACP recognized Don with its highest honor, the President's Award, and he received Lifetime Achievement accolades from Grambling State University. Shaw University, the oldest Black college in the South, bestowed King with an honorary doctorate degree and named him to its prestigious Board of Trustees. He also recently received the prestigious “Legacy Award” for Outstanding Community Service from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY. All three major boxing organizations, the IBF, WBA and WBC, have proclaimed Don King the "Greatest Promoter in History."
He is on a first name basis with presidents and dignitaries in America and around the world.
It was King who rescued the City’s treasure, The Call & Post Newspaper from bankruptcy, purchasing the paper in 1998 and he continues to own, operate and oversee the publication today.
However, Don King is far more than a boxing promoter, he is a promoter of the people. He will frequently tell you that “his magic lies in his peoples ties.”
Today he is an indefatigable advocate for peace and women’s rights, and at the age of 84 still going just as strong as yesteryear.
Thus, when the eastbound portion of Shaker Blvd. between East 116th and East 121st streets becomes ‘Don King Way’, it will resonate far beyond Northeast Ohio to the far corners of the globe and beyond.
Young Black impoverished kids can say to themselves, this name of this street is for man who came where I came from and he went on to fame and fortune. They will say if Don King can do it, so can I, and be reminded of it everyday they travel along ‘Don King Way.’