Don King Profile
|Born||Aug 20, 1931|
|Birthplace||Cleveland, Ohio, USA|
|Company Name||Don King Promotions|
Legal battles and prison sentences, King was the most controversial-yet-commercial promoter of the 1980s and 1990s who delivered huge pay-per-view events for the likes of Ali and Tyson.
Donald 'Don' King is a boxing promoter famous for making some of the biggest fights in the history of the sport. The American has reigned as one of boxing's most animated, flashy and flamboyant promoters for nearly half a century.
King has worked with some of the most high-profile fighters in the sport's history including Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran and Julio Cesar Chavez. And despite now being ensconced in the winter of his career, he remains one of the most recognisable figures in the fight game.
King rose from dubious beginnings, and first came to prominence by running an illegal gambling house in Cleveland, Ohio.
King's history with the law
In 1954, King shot a man in the back but the court ruled this was 'justifiable homicide' as the man in question had been trying to rob King. In 1967 King was convicted of manslaughter for stomping one of his employees - Sam Garrett - to death over a reported $600 debt.
He spent just shy of four years in prison for that before receiving a full pardon from the Ohio state Governor. While inside he read vociferously, taking in the works of Voltaire, Sartre and Nietzsche among others.
This ensured he became boxing's most infamous autodidact and after his release in 1971, King got into boxing promotion.
Hitting the big time: Ali, Holmes and Tyson
The story goes that King started in the business while doing fundraising work in 1972 for a struggling Cleveland hospital. He asked Ali to attend a charity event, and later convinced 'The Greatest' and George Foreman to let him promote their 1974 heavyweight championship bout, the seminal 'Rumble in the Jungle'.
He went on to work with some of the biggest names in the sport and ruled the heavyweight division in the 1980s. Former WBC world heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas once said: "I tried to stay away from King. You can't do it. It's like staying away from taxes. Sooner or later, he'll get you".
King went on to sign Mike Tyson, and the pair enjoyed a tumultuous ride together as Tyson first cleaned up the heavyweight division before self-destructing and spending time in prison.
Upon his release in 1995, King and a slew of bodyguards were waiting for "Iron" Mike and the pair would go on to put on a host of memorable pay-per-view attractions in the 1990s.
While chomping on a cigar with his outrageous hair styled straight up, King was one of the most recognisable faces in the sport in the 1980s and 1990s. He promoted some of the best fighters in the sport including Larry Holmes, Salvador Sanchez, Alexis Arguello and Roy Jones Jr.
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997 (IBOF). Though now approaching 90, King can still be seen at ringside with his signature hairstyle while waving an American flag as he supports his fighters.
King continued to control the heavyweight division with Holmes, the 'Easton Assassin' who held the WBC heavyweight title from 1978 to 1983 and who was regarded as the Ring Magazine's lineal heavyweight champion from 1980 to 1985.
Holmes would later allege that over the course of his career King cheated him out of $10million in purses.
King promoted Roberto Duran's return fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, the 'No Mas' fight that King secured for a rumoured $15million, a figure that was unheard of in the early 1980s for a non-heavyweight title fight.
He enjoyed a fabulous run with Julio Cesar Chavez, the iconic Mexican who once drew a live gate of 133,000 to the Azteca Stadium in Mexico for a WBC super-lightweight title defence against Greg Haugen in 1993.
He is perhaps best remembered for his relationship with Tyson. Beginning in 1998, following the death of co-manager Jim Jacobs, Tyson wanted to replace Bill Cayton with King.
He twice sued Cayton in a bid to end their professional relationship, and the pair eventually settled out of court. King and Tyson made millions together but also courted controversy, especially after Tyson's shock defeat to James 'Buster' Douglas in 1990.
Douglas knocked Tyson out in the round in Tokyo, but King then argued that Douglas was saved by a ling count in round eight after he was floored and wanted the decision changed.
Incredibly their stance was backed initially by the WBC, but after a media furore common sense soon prevailed and Tyson was forced to accept his first pro loss.
King has helped make countless fighters millionaires down the years but his career has also been mired in controversy. Ali, Holmes and Tyson are just a few high profile names who have launched legal challenges against King.
In 1996 Terry Norris sued king and claimed he had underpaid him for fights. After a lengthy legal battle, King settled out of court with Norris for $7.5million.
In later years King worked with the likes of Felix 'Tito' Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins and Marco Antonio Barrera and while he still has an interest in the sport, sightings of him at big fights are sadly now becoming few and far between.
Don King major events
King's move into boxing, through masterminding the 'Rumble in the Jungle' was audacious to say the least. He managed to get Ali and Foreman to sign separate contracts saying they would fight for a guaranteed purse of $5million each. The problem King then faced was finding a venue and finding $10million.
However, through Fred Wyman King began to negotiate with Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was persuaded the publicity and prestige of hosting such a huge worldwide sporting event would be good for his own popularity and help the economy in his country.
Many feared for the wellbeing of Ali, a 4/1 underdog and how he would stand up to the ferocious first of Foreman. However, "The Greatest" produced a masterful display of counterpunching to knock out Foreman in the eighth.
The 'Thrilla in Manila' followed in 1975, as Ali took on Frazier for the third and final time. This fight, at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, is still regarded as perhaps the most brutal heavyweight title fight in history.
Both men emptied the tank on each other in an absorbing spectacle that was so full-blooded, it all but ended their respective careers as top level performers.
Ali won the contest when Frazier was pulled out on his stool after 42 minutes of mayhem, his compassionate trainer Eddie Futch whispering to a still protesting but half-blind Frazier "Sit down, son, it's all over. But no one will ever forget what you did here today."
King has promoted more than 500 world title fights and Don King Productions put on both fights between Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Tyson lost both contests of course, which was bad for King, but the second 'Bite Fight' was said to have made over $110million in gross revenues.
King has always been good for a quote. With his flamboyant persona and his signature stack of stiff grey hair, he became one of the most successful promoters in pugilistic history. You don't scale the heights he did without being able to talk. Here then are a few of his best quotes from his time at the top.
"I came into the ring with the champion. And I left with the champion". This particular quote could well serve as King's epitaph. It was heard following a world heavyweight world title fight in Kingston, Jamaica following Foreman's annihilation of Frazier.
King famously had an interest in both men but, fancying Frazier to retain the world heavyweight title, came into the ring with Smokin' Joe. However after Foreman dropped Frazier six times and the referee called a halt to the carnage, King left with the new champ as Frazier struggled to digest what had just happened.
"Man, I've been to jail. It was hell in there, but I survived. If they put me back, I'll come out again. I'm one of the world's great survivors. I'll always survive because I've got the right combination of wit, grit and bull****."
"Martin Luther King took us to the mountain top. I want to take us to the bank."
"Man O' War was a great racehorse, but if I put an extra 20 pounds on him they would say I was cruel to the animal. So don't ask me to do that to Chavez."
"You ever stop to think they can't rob you of knowledge? They can strip you and you've still got it."
"Against the odds, I have persevered. I am the living attestation of the American dream. I am the extolment of this great nation. I have coffee and cocktails with presidents and dictators. I'm an international figure, a citizen of the world. I've made it."
Don King's net worth
King was the main promotional player in the sport for over 25 years and while his earning power may have dwindled from his 1980s pomp, having now scaled down his boxing operation, the octogenarian is still hustling in his own inimitable way and worth upwards of $150million, according to various sources.
The pair did eye-watering PPV numbers during Tyson's prime with that infamous return fight with Holyfield alone in 1997 grossing $110million. Tyson would later launch a lawsuit against King for $100million, alleging King stole money from him while promoting him after his release from prison in 1995.
The pair would eventually reach a settlement for $14million. It was former world heavyweight champion Holmes who summed King up best when he said in the 1980s - "Don King doesn't care about black or white. He just cares about green."
For all his bluster and ballyhoo at press conferences, King chose to keep his family away from the media glare. His wife Henrietta died in 2010 at the age of 87. He has one biological daughter, Debbie, and two adopted sons, Carl and Eric.
For more than a decade, Don and Carl King ruled boxing's lucrative heavyweight division and with Carl managing fighter's that Dona promoted. Carl has managed top names such as Michael Dokes, Saoul Mamby and Tim Witherspoon.