25.06.04 – By Phenyo Molefe – email@example.com – The prolific opportunist who rose above the harsh realities of life was a product of the unsympathetic Cleveland ghetto life. The enigma of this self-made boxing magnate still leaves most of us pondering unanswerable questions.
King’s life could have been that of any neighbourhood hustler trying to make his own in this unforgiving world we call home. He has always been a businesses man although in the earlier days his businesses where primarily focussed on illegal activities. His ‘first business’ venture was in the illegal numbers game in veiled locations in Cleveland. On one particular day three men tried to rob one of his booming gambling houses, one of them was unlucky-King shot and killed him. King walked as the death was classified as “justifiable homicide”. However twelve years later he killed a man who owed him an undisclosed amount of money. He was convicted on a charge of manslaughter and served a mere 4 years. It is in my opinion that during this stint in jail he realised that his small time hustling was not getting him to where he wanted to be, he needed a bigger platform…boxing proved to be his saviour.
It is alleged that King’s first ‘boxing’ project was actually for the good of the Cleveland community. The Forest City Hospital was saved from closure by a fundraising event headed by King and endorsed by Muhammad Ali. The two men found a ‘common’ understanding and The Don’s American dream began to take form. In 1974 King had a dream to stage the greatest boxing show down in history. Despite much criticism and lack of investors King pursued ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ and held the fight together in times where all he could see where unconvinced doubters. Mobutu Sese Seko had faith in The Don and the fight was staged in Zaire. It will forever be remembered as one of the greatest bouts. It propelled Don’s reputation as the best promoter and who could argue, he offered things few if any could ever match.
King’s lists of achievements are endless. In 1997 King was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame. In an exciting career spanning three decades, King has staged in excess of 500 world championship bouts. He has made more millionaires than any other boxing promoter; according to sources the figure is alleged to be around 93 individuals. This skilled individual has rewritten boxing history and has moulded his own American dream.
However King’s life has not escaped much controversy and scrutiny- he is boxing‘s answer to The Untouchables. King controls three of the four heavyweight title belts; any heavy weight dreaming of great pays days will pass through his ’claws’. In a sector having little protection for the hard working individuals who slave away fighting it off in the ring, he has exploited his position and has used them for his own benefit. One boxer remarked that although the Don ‘cheats’ him out of his fair share there is no promoter who can secure earnings in the manner that King does. You may not like him but the reality is that you need him.
Various individuals and institutions raging from Ali and Tyson to Lloyds of London have sued him. The FBI has investigated him and it was found that there was evidence of bribes and association with several mob figures. In 1984 Internal Revenue came after him with a list of damning evidence for tax evasion. One would have been forgiven for thinking that he couldn’t escape-but The Don pulled of another Houdini and was acquitted. He expressed his gratitude to jurors by taking them all on an all-expenses-paid trip to London. It is currently being reported that Tyson is in the final stages of settling his $100 million lawsuit against Don King for a lesser sum linked with certain agreements. Yet again King has escaped a lawsuit we were convinced he would loose. This is The Don’s world and he is untouchable.
Over the years he has been the subject of much debate as we struggle to decide whether he is a worthy hero or ruthless villain. He established the Don King Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes and organizations such as of the NAACP, Our Children’s Foundation yet we are all too aware of his undeniable malevolence. Don King has enjoyed enormous success and influence yet he is shunned by most sectors of society, people who know him for his ‘sins’ against humanity. It is up to us to draw our conclusion about this impenetrable individual who rose above adversity.
‘For those out of you out there saying this and that, remember this: there’ve been many boxers to enter the ring, but there’s only one King’-Don King