ARLINGTON, Va. – Legendary promoter Don King packed quite a punch during a special visit to troops in Germany and Iraq as part of a USO/MNC-I expeditionary entertainment tour during Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 22-25). After dining with military personnel at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Thanksgiving, he spent time with wounded service members, rubbed elbows with redeploying soldiers at Ramstein Air Base, posed for pictures and signed autographs..
King later surprised U.S. forces in Iraq with an unannounced visit and special viewing of the Don King Productions and Main Events co-promoted match featuring “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas vs. Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga boxing event, which was beamed live from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
Vargas vs Mayorga was televised live to all troops internationally via Armed Forces Network courtesy of Don King Productions. (King has quietly given all of his boxing events to AFN free of charge for decades.)
Airing just before the fight, King and the troops he was visiting were included on the American pay-per-view telecast of the event via a live hook-up from Iraq. President George W. Bush also appeared on the telecast, expressing his heartfelt thanks and praise to service men and women serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Immediately following the fight, King mingled and ate lunch with troops in the military dining facility.
“I was supposed to be in Los Angeles to attend my boxing event on the day after Thanksgiving, but there is nothing more important to me than the men and women serving in our great American armed services,” King said. “They are the vanguard of our nation, and when I was invited to visit them in Iraq, it didn’t matter what day it was, I wanted to be there for them.
“My esteemed wife Henrietta could not join me in person for this USO tour but joins me in spirit as we celebrate the great sacrifices that members of our armed forces make in defending our country and the very democracy we are afforded. We are privileged to be Americans.”
Following his USO-sponsored trip to Iraq, Mr. King has planned a three-city stateside base tour and moral booster for the military. He will be joined on this tour titled “We Care” by five-time world champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad and eight-time world champion Roy Jones Jr.
He intends to visit with cadets at West Point Military Academy on Dec. 3; Eglin Air Force Base, Hulbert Field Training Base, and the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida on Dec. 5; and Fort Buchanan and Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico on Dec. 6.
King added: “We want to thank Jim Dolan, his dad Chuck Dolan and mother Helen for supporting our troops and hosting the Trinidad-Jones match “Bring on the Titans” at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19.
A longtime supporter of the U.S. armed forces, King visited the home of the “Screaming Eagles,” the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. During his visit, he was made an Honorary “Screaming Eagle” by then Lieutenant General David Petraeus for his continuous contributions and support that has resulted in a permanent memorial being built.
Don King Productions has promoted over 500 world championship fights with nearly 100 individual boxers having been paid $1 million or more. DKP also holds the distinction of having promoted or co-promoted seven of the 10 largest pay-per-view events in history, as gauged by total buys, including three of the top five: Holyfield vs. Tyson II, 1.99 million buys, June 1997; Tyson vs. Holyfield I, 1.6 million buys, November 1996; and Tyson vs. McNeeley, 1.58 million buys, August 1995.
DKP has promoted or co-promoted 11 of the top 15 highest-grossing live gates in the history of the state of Nevada including four of the top five: Holyfield vs. Lewis II, paid attendance: 17,078, gross: $16,860,300 (NOTE: Also second-highest live-gate gross for any event in the history of the world.), date: Nov. 13, 1999; Holyfield vs. Tyson II, paid attendance: 16,279, gross: $14,277,200, date: June 28, 1997; Holyfield vs. Tyson I, paid attendance: 16,103, gross: $14,150,700, date: Nov. 9, 1996; and Tyson vs. McNeeley, paid attendance: 16,113, gross: $13,965,600, date: Aug. 19, 1995.
The USO is the way for Americans to support their troops. The USO provides a bridge to home for the U.S. military, providing them and their families with entertainment and communication services that improve their lives and boost morale. In 2006, celebrity entertainers traveled more than two million miles on USO tours in 26 countries and 14 states, entertaining service men and women and their families.
AT&T, Inc. is the official telecommunications sponsor of USO entertainment tours. For a list of recent and upcoming USO tours, visit www.uso.org/whatwedo/entertainment. To learn more about the USO or to find out how to support the troops, visit www.uso.org.