Don King and his 91 Years of Life

Wbc DonkingBy Mauricio Sulaimán
Son of José Sulaimán & President of the WBC

Next Saturday, August 20, Don King will be turning 91 years old, and that is why I decided to dedicate this column to this icon who is undoubtedly one of the most influential and most important men in the history of the sport of boxing worldwide.

There are books and movies that describe the life of Don King, but there is no official production in which he recounts his life, and perhaps it will never exist, because he refuses to do so as he wishes to continue his boxing promoter career. In almost all of these biographical productions, he is portrayed as a dark and even almost diabolical being. It would be necessary to study who has produced these films, series, etc., and check the interest behind these works because none of them does justice to how much he has achieved for the good of our sport in so many different ways.

The famous Don was born in Cleveland. He grew up in troubled neighborhoods in the midst of a society at a time when racial discrimination was at its peak in the USA. I don’t know his childhood very well, but in his youth, he was dedicated to collecting money from the famous clandestine lottery of that time called “numbers.” He eventually married Henrietta, who was in charge of that business.

One day, while trying to collect an outstanding balance, a dispute arose which led to a fight in which the debtor happened to die, leading Don King to spend four years in jail. That was the best thing that could have happened to him since he spent that time educating himself, and above all, creating a life plan for himself when he was liberated. He read innumerable books and grew inspired by the great characters in the history of his country and humanity.

When he got out of prison, he looked for a way to clear his name towards society, and it was then when he managed to contact the then-champion Muhammad Ali. He offered him to do an exhibition fight to raise funds in order to save a hospital that the government had decided to close due to lack of funds. The success of that event was such that in addition to saving the hospital to continue serving people of his race, Don King realized that boxing could be an enormous business.

He became a boxing promoter and thus began a successful career that has spanned seven decades from the 1970s to the 2020s.

The audacity, imagination and perseverance led him to promote some of the greatest fighters in the world, as well as presenting some of the greatest boxing cards in the history of this sport.

Boxing shows promoted by King featured three, four, and even five world championship fights on the very same night.

Don King managed to promote boxing in a fashionable way, all his cards became events of great interest. He managed to capture the attention of fans and bring millions of new people to boxing. His cards were always billed with a catchy name, creating a story of what would happen in the ring and that is how those legendary events are still remembered.

The Rumble in the Jungle – the historic fight held in Zaire, now the Congo, where Muhammad Ali shocked the world by regaining his WBC World Heavyweight Championship by knocking out George Foreman in eight rounds.

The Thrilla in Manila – the third meeting between Ali and Frazier turned out to be one of the most brutal and dramatic fights in history. Ali was no longer going to come out to fight after the 14th round. Angelo Dundee begged him to just stand up, claiming he would stop the fight when he considered it. Ali accepted, and it was Frazier who didn’t come in the final round.

All of his cards received a special name and his promotional tours were simply amazing. He lived in a time without social networks, without cell phones, without internet, and even so the news of his fights reached all corners of the world.

Promoter of a huge number of Mexican boxers, and to whom we owe a large part of the growth Mexico towards worldwide boxing. Salvador Sanchez, Carlos Zarate, Lupe Pintor, Ricardo Lopez, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Chiquita Gonzalez, Daniel Zaragoza among many more, and also the great Mexican champion Julio Cesar Chavez!

Chavez and King offered great nights of glory to Mexican and world boxing. “Thunder Meets Lightning,” the unforgettable night when Chavez defeated Taylor with that historic KO in the last seconds. “Ultimate Glory”, the night when Chavez faced Macho Camacho, the most anticipated fight for many years, and “The Grand Slam of Boxing,” Chavez vs. Haugen at the Azteca stadium before 136,000 spectators.

That’s how an iconic career as a boxing promoter loaded with champions such as Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Azumah Nelson, Terry Norris, Julian Jackson, and over a hundred other champions he has promoted. Don King has promoted more than 500 world championship fights. He has paid a million dollars in a fight to more than 100 boxers and he has promoted or co-promoted seven of the 10 most successful pay-per-views in boxing history.

His iconic look, with that peculiar hairstyle with his hair standing up, is considered one of the most audacious publicity actions in history. This has served as case studies in the most prestigious universities, as well as in various marketing agencies of the world.

According to Don, he says that one good day after taking a bath, while looking in the mirror asking God for a sign to seek success, his curls began to unfold, turning straight one by one, “Ping, ping, pum, ping” until he saw how his hair had shaped into a crown. He can walk down any street in the world, enter any restaurant or store and still cause commotion among those who see him. He is undoubtedly one of the most recognized characters in the history of sports.

Did you know that…

In addition to all the success he has achieved as a boxing promoter, he was the one who promoted one of the most successful music tours in all history: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Today’s anecdote…

Two weeks before the great card, “The War” in the bullring in Mexico in which Julio Cesar Chavez faced Miguel Angel Gonzalez and Ricardo Lopez faced Rosendo Alvarez, my father called me while he was in his room. “My son, I am very tired. Could you go to the airport and pick up Don? I will catch up with you at dinner.”

Very excited, I got into my car and my cousin Manuel got into his so we could pick up Don and his team at the airport. Dana got into my Stratus in the back, and Don got in front with me, Isidore (RIP), his supposed bodyguard who was actually his assistant and was not able to even kill a fly, as he was so gentle and kind, like a teddy bear, traveled with my cousin in his Jetta. When we got to a red light at the corner of Campos Eliseos and Mariano Escobedo, a car crossed us and four guys got out with such tremendous guns, Don got panicked and started screaming and yelling. Fortunately, I managed to calm him down, and thank God he agreed to give them his watch. They immediately ran to their car. The traffic light turned green and I instinctively simply started to drive. There was a patrol car on the corner and I just shouted at them, “We just got robbed.” The policeman turned around and yelled with great excitement, “Don King, Don King, a photo please.”

Finally, we arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel where we met my father, and when he found out what had happened, he hugged me and kissed me with nothing but pure love: “Thank God nothing happened my son,” while Don shouted through the lobby on the way to the restaurant, “Mauricio saved me, he saved me. He saved me from those bandidos!”

As we arrived to Alfredo DiRoma restaurant, Don ordered a triple Cognac that he drank at once and ordered all the dishes on the menu, saying that he had just been reborn.

I appreciate your comments at [email protected].

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  • Don King will be replaced since his era is coming to an end. However, nobody can’t take his exact place. Don did put some great fights together back in the heyday. However, like in all things, nothing lasts forever. Controversy always surrounded King with his shoddy monetary dealings with past fighters and oddities of corrupt influences amongst boxing councils. Yep, they will deny it, but we all know better. Don got lucky in boxing because his sly creativity and car salesman slick talk catapulted him into being the “king” of promoters in a long distant past which made him a wealthy man from other people’s pain in the ring. I am glad I can say I lived through most of the Don King era of boxing. However, boxing is an evolving sport that replaces those we grow from. Have a great day.

    • Regardless of his style, he made millionaires of men, and made their names great. He might have taken more than his share, but he left them better than most promoters would have.

  • Like him or not,(actually I don’t think anyone REALLY likes him), Don certainly deserves credit for resiliency.

  • Julio Cesar Chaves telling Don King; You are a Fackuuuu on national tv!!! Lmfao

  • Daddy made lots of $$$$ cos of DK,both denied Buster was champ when he beat Tyson…..nice people.

  • CROOK!! Simple as that! Boxing and humanity is better off without this scumbag

    • Disagree, he put together some of the greatest fight cards ever. Foreman Vs Ali, Tyson Vs Holyfield,. He is actually rated as the number one promoter of all time by bleachers report..

  • Don king is a f*cking genius. A genetic freak; the guy never ages & throughout his career managed to outhustle & outsmart everyone. Saying that he ruined the careers of Tim Witherspoon, Greg page, Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas, Jim Merritt & basically robbed every fighter he ever promoted including Larry Holmes, Ali + practically every heavyweight in the 1980’s, then the little guys like zab Judah & Ricardo mayorga etc.

  • “One day, while trying to collect an outstanding balance, a dispute arose which led to a fight in which the debtor happened to die, leading Don King to spend four years in jail.”

    This is the most deft way of saying “King killed a man over a numbers debt” I have ever seen.

  • Salute to Mauricio giving a fellow P his flowers while he’s still here. We need more of this from our men. Most guys who never accomplished anything or been anywhere will take shot at King whenever the opportunity presents itself. I dont agree with a lot of what the WBC does but this is how leadership looks. Give credit where its do, we have too many betas/fanboys that wanna be like their mommas

    • Do you want to give credit to Mauricio Sulaiman?… Give me a freakin’ break!

  • The WBA and the WBC are the MOST corrupted boxing entities w/ no credibility whatsoever. Many boxing pundits have brought up this subject on numerous occasions. They created 17 categories per boxing sanctioning body, and if you multiply that by 5 four – (WBA, WBC, WBF, WBO, and the IBF), we end up having 85 Champions. They have created a system similar to a junk fast-food business; the more crap they sell, the more they earn…

  • A story about one of the most corrupt scum bags to grace boxing by Mauricio Sulaimán whos family helped to keep the sport dirty for decades. Sammy the Bull said I can get a ranking for $10k. Hook me up! (Are you partially tarded by chance?)

  • I am one of Don King X Fighters all I can say is this man took me around the world let me make money and give me a title shot thank you it’s all I can say I have nothing bad to say about this man because his daughter Debbie King and Carl King has always been good to me from day one thank you Mr King for taking me in and letting the world see fight for World title on Showtime thank you

  • All I have to say if Don King was around during slavery he would have change the game … the oppression would have been on the slave holders This is what being your own Boss looks like ..that’s why he’s still living God is tough

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