“Don King is organized crime.”
- Thomas Hauser 1
In a humorous article about his mother meeting Don King, Thomas Hauser wrote:
Did anyone at the press conference have advice for my mother as to how to handle [meeting Don King]?
“Put cotton in your ears,” George Kimball counseled.
“Watch your wallet,” Chris DeBlasio warned.
“Be ready for words you never heard before, and a lot of them,” Buddy McGirt cautioned.
“Take your jewelry off before you shake hands with him,” Ivaylo Gotzev suggested.
“You can’t believe what he’s saying,” Lou Duva said. “And sometimes you can’t even believe he’s saying what he’s saying. 2
As you you’ve probably figured out by now, most people in boxing consider Don King to be a shady character. The truth of the matter is actually far worse—Don King is a two time murderer, extortionist, thief, and outright threat to society.
In his book, The Life and Crimes of Don King, Jack Newfield says, “Long before 1966, King had already killed a man with a gun. On December 2, 1954, three men from Detroit tried to rob one of King’s gambling houses, on East 123rd Street. There was a gunfight with King firing a Russian revolver. When the shooting stopped, Hilary Brown lay dead on the ground.” 3 Anecdotally, I can tell you that many are skeptical that King was acting in self-defense (especially after considering some of his illegal and immoral conduct before and after this event.)
King’s second murder victim was Sam Garrett. Newfield says, “Once Garrett was on the ground, King started kicking him in the head, without restraint. King’s heavy shoes left footprints on Garrett’s cheekbone. Blood started to smear Garrett’s swelling, mashed face… King kept stomping the smaller man.” 3 Garrett died after five days in a coma. This vicious act of violence was over a $600 gambling debt owed to King.
It doesn’t stop there. Don King is known to have falsified financial records, stolen money from boxing purses, and forced fighters with no legal or business backgrounds into signing contracts that would end up destroying their careers. Newfield says, “More than one-hundred lawsuits have been filed against Don King since 1978.” 3 King has taken advantage of and stolen from the likes of Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon, Mike Tyson, and even Muhammad Ali after Ali had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. King persuaded Ali to return from retirement to face Larry Holmes even after it was obvious that Ali was grossly out of shape and slurring his words. Several writers at ringside and others watching were brought to tears by the beating that Ali endured. And after all that “... the worst was yet to come. When the fight was over, and Ali was out of the hospital, Don King paid him $1,170,000 less than the signed contract stipulated.” 3 As ridiculous as it seems, this treatment of Ali was probably the best, most generous that King ever gave to a fighter he promoted.
Some heavyweights that fell under his control during the 1980s ended up broke, with their mental, physical, and financial health irreparably shattered by King’s greed. Most would never recover, with some winding up more broke than they were before they met King even after generating millions of dollars in ticket and pay-per-view sales. Others would be consumed by addictions to drugs and alcohol caused by a yearning to escape from the degrading situations and humiliation suffered during their dealings with King. Despite all of the struggles these men endured to fight under King’s banner, he still had the nerve to charge them egregious amounts for trivial expenses so that King would always end up with a disproportionate share of the money. He destroyed the lives of numerous professional fighters, and to this day he has shown no regret.
1. Hauser, Thomas. An Unforgiving Sport. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2009.
2. Hauser, Thomas. The Boxing Scene. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009.
3. Newfield, Jack. The Life and Crimes of Don King. New York: Harbor Electronic Publishing, 2003