Don King: Businessman and Underworld Figure in the World of Boxing

Don King, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, New York,

More about the man who brought the “Thrilla in Manila” to the boxing world.

If you ask Don King nowadays about the “Fight of the Century” between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao on May 2nd, his response probably wouldn’t be surprising. He quickly said that the issues between the two fighters may have already been settled had he dealt with the promotions. King also went on to say that some mistakes made in the ongoing negotiations may have stalled the super fight.

• King built an illegal bookmaking operation from a record shop basement
• King shot and killed a man who tried to rob one of these illicit businesses
• Today, Don King’s fortune has a net worth of $150 million

“The fight is still interesting but it has lost some of its charm. It’s still an interesting fight, Floyd has not lost but Pacquiao has already had two losses, but that does not diminish it as an anticipated fight.” One may wonder what pedigree does King have to qualify his assertions about the “Fight of the Century?” The answer is none like any other and a fight promotion record that is carved in US gambling news.

The Origin of Donald King

Don King was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Not a whole lot is known about his childhood and early life except he graduated from John Adams High School. Before he was involved in fight promotion, King ran numbers (illegal betting slips) to pay for his classes at Western Reserve University when wanted to become a lawyer. He built an illegal bookmaking operation from a record shop basement.

It wouldn’t be long before King went beyond the illegal gambling business and became one of the top racketeers in Cleveland. After leaving school to further is business, King ran several gambling houses. It was at one of these gambling houses that King would commit his first crime.

King shot and killed a man who was attempting to rob one of these illicit businesses. Nothing came of King’s deed until 13 years later when he was implemented in a second murder. King was convicted of second-degree murder of one of his employees. Upon owing King $600, he stomped Sam Garret to death. In 1967, on a reduced sentence, King served less than 4 years in prison.

The next year, King was able to coax Muhammad Ali into participating in a charity exhibition to raise money for Cleveland hospital. With the support of Ali, King left behind his past and became a fight promoter. His entrance would be an Ali bout against George Foreman. With King’s anonymity as well as the unfamiliar locale of Zaire, funding for the fight, within the confines of US gambling laws, proved difficult.

From the “Rumble in the Jungle” to beyond

King Mobutu Ali
King promised Ali and Foreman $5 million each for the bout, which was unprecedented at the time. King had no choice but to seek counsel with Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire’s dictator. Seeing the fight as an opportunity to create positive publicity for Zaire, Seko bankrolled all the money from Zaire’s treasury. As the televised fight saw huge ratings, King’s career took off with a blast.

King was able to secure promotions for 6 more title fights for Ali. Among these stood out the famous “Thrilla in Manila” in which Ali and Joe Frazier fought for the third time in 1975. Not only did Ali earn $6 million from the bout, but over a million people watched the fight on television worldwide. From then on King became forged in the definition of boxing in America.

In the 1983, King promoted 12 world championship bouts and 10 years later 47 more bouts. King was considered a legendary promoter helping people such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Felix Trinidad. King, receiving staunch criticism for his business practices, was seen as unethical and fueled many pages of conspiracy websites.

By using “sleazy” practices such as contractually forcing fighters facing his fighters to allow King to represent them, guaranteed King money for himself no matter who won.
Most of the fighters King has represented have sued him for withholding funds during some time in their career. Mike Tyson, who is one of the biggest victims of King, is only worth $1 million today, whereas King rests upon a $150 million fortune.

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Willy Parker
Willy Parker
2 years ago

One of the finest and mastermind businessman. DON KING!.