Saturday, October 21, 2017
DON KING: Only in America’
Published February 5, 2009

As we embark on the month where our African American heritage is celebrated most, I shadow boxed with the past and came to the future to profile our history into the fisticuff sport of boxing.

Perhaps the easy way out, albeit not any less impact, would be to go back into time and profile a Jack Johnson or Joe Louis, but I felt more compelled to focus on someone who is just as much a part of the past as he is our present and the future and with that I came up with a man whom I have enjoyed a personal acquaintance with.

Just the mere mention of the sport of boxing and there is only one who has been a significant part of its legacy during parts of five decades and that is the man who coined 'Only in America.'

Don King grew up in the Cleveland ghetto and was a known numbers runner, imprisoned for manslaughter, granted a full pardon and reinvented his life in 1972 when he promoted his first boxing event, an exhibition to save his native Forrest City Hospital in Cleveland Ohio.

During a loosely scripted infamous HBO film, much of his rise in the sport that featured no Blacks as promoters has been vastly documented, but more than anything the film depicted a perception of the myth of the man and not necessarily the man himself.

Now 78-years old, King is still doing what he set out to do in '72. He is surviving the test of times, IRS investigations and the many negative connotations that have attacked his name and likeness.

He has promoted some of the greatest luminaries in the history of the sport: Muhammad Ali, 'Smokin' Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones, Felix Trinidad and Bernard Hopkins just to name a few.

More than 500 world championship fights have donned his moniker and more than 100 fighters under his promotional umbrella earned more than $1 million.

His record of having promoted seven of the 10 largest pay per view events in history-as gauged by total buys-is a distinction that still stands.

It was King who was the first promoter to guarantee a boxer $1 million in purses in 1981 and the first promoter to guarantee fighters $10 million when he paid that amount to Sugar Ray Leonard to face Roberto Duran in 1980.

For years, he has promoted the top fighters in the heavyweight division when those fighters were considered the greatest athletes in the world and he is as instrumental for both HBO and Showtime's existence than any other promoter.

While some have accused him of cheating fighters out of their purses, Holmes once said that he got more money from King than he ever did any other promoter.

Trinidad, arguably one of the greatest welterweights in history, has never been promoted by anyone other than King.

Critics claim that King was responsible for the fall of Tyson, but the facts are that Tyson made over $100 million according to contract with King and never approached near that number with anyone else.

King has always been innovative. He introduced boxing to network television, was the first to pioneer his own pay per view arm, and the first promoter to establish his own television network, The Don King Sports and Entertainment Network in 1982.

One HBO executive called him crackling bright, among the most intelligent men in the world.

That King is a well read American historian and on a first name basis with world leaders cannot be lost on anyone when it comes to recording history.

His humble beginnings aside, his achievements would be more remarkable if he had the resume of President Barack Obama but the fact that his obstacles were so great makes his contributions that more historic.

Many call the navigating wordsmith the greatest promoter since P.T. Barnum, but the record indicates that Barnum could not stand next to him.

Most of the multi-millions that he has earned through his shrewd negotiating skills and business acumen has been generously donated to hundreds of charities.

His business might has also been demonstrated outside the sport of boxing with his promotional genius of the Jackson 5's record Victory Tour, his representation of basketball player Benoit Benjamin which netted the player a record $20 million contract at the time and his involvement with tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams during their formative years, subsiding them with resources to ignite their illustrious careers.

Say what you will about 'The Only in America' man, the king of the ring and living encyclopedia, but make darn sure that you chronicle his greatness as a certified African American icon.

Categories: News (Sports)

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