Donald King is a boxing promoter, known for setting up some of the most notorious fights in boxing history. He was born on August 20, 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio. He had considered a career in law at first and attended Western Reserve University where he became a bookkeeper at a betting ring. In 1954, he was charged with murder but his name was cleared after the judge ruled it as a justifiable homicide, as the victim Hillary Brown had been trying to rob one of King’s gambling houses. There was another murder charge to his name 13 years later for stomping an employee to death. This time King was convicted of second degree murder, but the sentence was reduced to non-negligent manslaughter for which he served four years in prison. Several prominent people came to his aid to help get his sentence reduced, including Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes, Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, George Voinovich, Art Modell, and Gabe Paul.
King’s entered the field of boxing after convincing the legendary fighter Muhammad Ali to participate in a charity exhibition match for a local hospital in Cleveland. He formed a partnership with a famous local boxing promoter named Don Elbaum. In 1974, he set up one of the biggest matches of his career. It was titled “The Rumble in the Jungle” and it was fought between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. It was a hugely anticipated event, with a prize money of $10 million, the biggest in boxing history at the time.
He followed this up the very next year with another mammoth fight, this time between Muhamamd Ali and Joe Frazier. This was held in Manila, Phiilippines and was titled the “Thrilla in Manila”. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, King became a prominent promoter for some of the most renowned boxers including Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio Cesar Chavez, Aaron Pryor, Bernard Hopkins, Ricardo Lopez, Salvador Sanchez, Wilfredo Gomez and several others. Apart from boxing, he runs a newspaper in Cleveland called the “Call and Post” of which he is the publisher.
He was married to Henrietta King who died in December 2010 at the age of 87. He has 3 children and 5 grandchildren. He is politically active and campaigned for George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential Elections and for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. He is a philanthropist and runs an annual turkey giveaway in which thousands of free turkeys are distributed amongst needy people in South Florida at Christmas each year.
He has been portrayed in several television shows and films, such as “Don King: Only in America” which aired on HBO. King has made small appearances in shows and films, such as “The Last Fight” in 1982 and “Head Office” in 1985. He is known for his eccentric appearance with his straight hair standing up on his head, to which there are many pop culture references.
Don King’s life has been surrounded by several controversies. Apart from the two murder charges, he has been involved in numerous law suits. The boxer Muhammad Ali sued him for fraud in 1982 for underpaying him $1.1 million for a fight. Larry Holmes alleged King of cheating him out of $10 million in prize money and Tim Witherspoon reported that he had been blackmailed by King to sign exclusively with him. Mike Tyson also sued King for $100 million for cheating him out of money during several fights over the period of a decade, but the case was settled out of court for $14 million. He has been involved in other lawsuits including against the sports channel ESPN and the boxers Lennox Lewis, Chris Byrd and Terry Norris. Although King is one of the most famous boxing promoters, he is also rued for tarnishing the reputation of the sport with corruption.