Even before reading Jack Newfield's excellent insight into boxing's con-man from Cleveland, I had a very strong opinion of Don King. But unlike most people I know, mine was favorable. Sure he has his bad side, (killing a couple of people on his way to the big time cannot be considered very nice) but as a boxing promoter, Don is the best there is. He might not be a great guy to be pals with or an ideal business partner, but if you are watching a boxing card, Don King is your man. By the way, the Teflon Don isn't spreading any of his green my way for saying all these nice things about him. Not that I wouldn't take it! So, after reading the book, did I change my mind about the King of the Ring? Not really. I already knew about the early dirt on Don for numbers running and murder charges. And, lest I forget, the NY Post or Daily News would remind me every once and a while.
The first few chapters explore Don's personality and driving desire to make lots of money. To "Be Big", as he says in the book. The extent to which King will go to make a buck are truly extraordinary. The details of his involvement with the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire are particularly fascinating.
The next couple of sections deal with King's infamous 1970's ABC American Boxing Tournament, his scamming of both Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali for vast sums of money, and his eventual strangle-hold of the heavy-weight division. After even a quick glance through this book, it is easy to see how King's brilliant street-smart mind enables him to fleece all these fighters out of their money and how he's managed so far to elude conviction of various criminal charges.
I found Chapter 11 to be the most enjoyable and informative to me, personally. This chapter deals with, "the lost generation of heavyweights". This is the time period I first began to take a serious interest in boxing in general and the heavyweights in particular.
Greg Page, Trevor Berbick, Pinklon Thomas, Tim Witherspoon, Tony's-Tucker and Tubbs, etc., etc. These enigmatic bunch of coulda-shoulda-woulda beens were my introduction to the sweet-science via my T.V., and never has a stranger bunch of characters been assembled. These were fighters who could look fiercesome or be fiercely boring. They might look like they could go 50 rounds or they might look like a bean bag with legs. They could possibly appear to have the heart of a lion, but more than likely they were drug-using, lethargic, shadow-boxers.
What caused these contradictions among these young men? Don King. Read how he cheated Witherspoon blind and soiled his dream of being heavyweight champ, how poor Michael Dokes (who thought of King as a father-figure) looked up to see "Dad" step over him to embrace Gerrie Coetzee after their 1983 title bout in Ohio. Explains a lot, doesn't it?
The last couple of chapters deal with King's parasitic relationship with Mike Tyson and the insurance fraud charges case that has been submitted to the jury as this issue goes to press. Most of the information in these chapters is well- nown to boxing fans who read the sports pages. Nevertheless, it remains very interesting stuff. Newfield has produced a valuable book that is an excellent addition to any boxing fan's library.
© 1996 The Cyber Boxing Zone
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