Long Live The ‘King’ !
We are living in a difficult time, humanity is hurting, tragedies and terrorist attacks happening, with so many innocent people dying and countless families suffering without being able to find an explanation. The latest tragic event took place in Barcelona, but shook the world. Let’s only hope that a day comes when matters are settled in a different manner, when at last respect rules as the principle among all. Our prayers join the millions from all over the world for all the victims and their families.
Don King turned 86 yesterday. I decided to dedicate this week’s column to one of the greatest personalities in the history of boxing and all sports.
Controversial and a celebrity himself, he dominated the promotional business of boxing for three decades, and even today he captures the attention wherever he walks all over the world. Don King is a superstar worldwide, known as the big black man with his hair standing up (even though his hair has been down for some years now).
A man who has, without a doubt, a long list of enemies and detractors, some vicious journalists who take him on with passionate anger; boxing promoters, managers and boxers who badmouth King and his way of conducting business, but after all, everybody respects the man.
On every controversy or scandal, I learned to analyze with a simple principle … one side of the story, the other side of the story – and the truth.
Don King paid at least $1 million to more than 100 boxers. His boxing cards used to feature three, four, or even five world title fights! He used to create events around boxing, got the world interested in the sport, and he is undoubtedly responsible for the growth in the sport throughout the planet.
He went to Africa for the “Rumble in the Jungle”, to the Philippines for the “Thrilla in Manila”, to Mexico City to sell out the Aztec Stadium for a Guinness World Record paid attendance of 136,342 with Julio Cesar Chavez beating Greg Haugen, to Tokyo for the historic knockout win of Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson, and the list goes on and on.
His rivalry against Bob Arum, who is also turning 86 in December, was very much part of the growth of the sport. Competition made both work harder. Bob Arum is also one of the greatest promoters in the history of boxing, and they knew how to make big successful events. Even with their continuous public fights, they knew how to reach a deal and co-promote a great event together whenever there was a must-happen fight.
I admire Don King because he has reached success by overcoming so many obstacles in life – naturally discriminated against due to his color of skin, discriminated against for his conviction and incarceration.
Don King decided to change his life and dedicated his time in prison to educate himself and to create a life plan to serve others. He is no angel, but then again, who is? Who has not made mistakes? He is a master negotiator and a visionary to create interest, create stars, and make bigger deals. Some boxers who have been interviewed and asked to talk bad about King, claiming King robbed them, the answer is simple – if I made 10 times of what I was making before King, then he deserves to make as much money for himself.
I met Don King when I was very little. One day at home, I heard a loud strange noise, so I ran downstairs only to find two huge men standing in our living room, Muhammad Ali and Don King, the loud noise was Don’s traditional laughter.
I have seen Don King countless times in my life. I admire him for his passion, his perseverance, for working harder than anyone, for his loyalty. I will not join the bandwagon of those who to try to create stories of wrongdoings, abuse, and corruption. I merely state the facts and what Don King’s legacy has given to the sport of boxing, and I have lived it first-hand.
Just as with Don King, I have met and enjoyed the friendship of many promoters and managers in boxing from all over the world. Boxing is a big family, and as in all families, there are different personalities and behaviors.
Today at 86, Don King is not as active as he would wish, but he keeps on trying and he has passion and boxing keeps him alive.
I am happy to write this while he is still alive, as we are all used to merit and remember those who have passed.
Don King – thank you for what you have done for the sport of boxing. Thank you for shaping the sport into the great spectacle that represents today, for changing the lives of many and for all those charitable actions that you have never publicized.
Happy 86 – Long Live the King!