(Don King and Anna Nicole Smith share a moment.)
As you have all heard by now, Don King made good on the threats he has been making to get into the MMA industry for 5 years. But a lot of MMA fans don’t know much about the biggest boxing promoter in history, only knowing him as the “ONLY IN AMERICA!” guy with the crazy hair. A lot of people are equating him to Gary Shaw, which is ignorant. To paraphrase Teddy Atlas, Gary Shaw isn’t a pimple on Don King’s ass. He’s a guy who wasn’t even close to being close to Don King’s level in the world of boxing taking two shitty TV deals out of desperation who got fired by his own company. Comparing Gary Shaw to Don King is like comparing Gary Shaw to Dana White: they’re lightyears apart. Don King should stomp to death anybody who thinks they’re the same. And here’s why.
Don King Knows How To Make Money
Hate him or love him, you can’t deny he took money making in professional sports to a whole new level. Sure, he’ll put some backdoor deals in your contract to make a lot of that money back from you, but nobody was getting paid on the level King’s fighters were before the early 1970s. It all started with George Foreman and Muhammad Ali splitting a $10 million purse in 1974’s “Rumble In The Jungle” fight. He was also the first man to secure $1 million from a television network to hold the rights to Muhammad Ali’s forgettable fight with Ron Lyle a year later, then re-upping the amount by another million dollars from ABC every year for the rest of the decade.
In 1980 he became the first promoter to pay a single fighter $10 million to “Sugar” Ray Leonard in his fight with Roberto Duran. This total kept increasing with various fighters until it peaked with Mike Tyson getting close to $30 million per fight in 1995-1997. The guy even got Featherweights paid a million each when he put together the Sanchez vs. Gomez fight in 1981. FEATHERWEIGHTS! That’s skill, son.
Don King Mastered The Art Of Television
King was the first man to get network television to fork out major money for rights to broadcast a boxing match in the mid-70s. Then he was the first promoter to see potential in HBO broadcasting fights when he turned down an offer from ABC for the Holmes vs. Weaver heavyweight title fight in 1979. People called him crazy, since at the time HBO wasn’t paying a fraction of what ABC offered, but King was smart enough to know that when HBO saw his boxing ratings do better than any of their other programming, and subscriptions go way up directly due to boxing, he’d make a mint in re-signing with the pay network.
And while Bob Arum was the first promoter to go to pay per view (with Hearns-Leonard in 1981) King has 3 out of 5 of the top grossing boxing pay per views ever, with only Mayweather-De La Hoya (at #1) and Lewis-Tyson (at #3) not promoted by him. Gary Shaw on the other hand……um……um……What did Gary Shaw do again?
Don King Co-Managed Michael Jackson In The Early 80s
Of course MMA isn’t the same business as boxing, but King has shown he can make money in other fields as well. A lot of people forget that Don King was one of Michael Jackson’s business managers during the Thriller years. He was the concert promoter of the Jackson 5 “Victory” reunion tour that broke all kinds of concert records. He was also the guy who negotiated Jackson’s big Pepsi endorsement deal (remember, the one his hair caught on fire by fireworks filming?) After King left Jackson began his slow march into weirdness, buying Neverland Ranch, getting all that plastic surgery, and the whole kid diddling thing. Coincidence?
Don King Has Killed People
Sure, Dana likes to pass himself off as a bad ass because he says “fuck” every other word. But has he ever killed anyone….twice? Don King did. In his days before being a boxing promoter, he was a college dropout who decided to get into the world of illegal gambling. In 1953, King shot a man to death that attempted to rob his underground gambling parlor. Then in 1966 he beat an employee he discovered was stealing from him to death. King was found not guilty by reason of self defense for the shooting, but was sentenced to just 4 years in prison for the beating death of his employee.
So basically, don’t fuck with Don King. Don’t let the senior citizen age, crazy hair and goofy slogans fool you, the man is a bad ass. Dana White on the other hand was a meek Jazzercise teacher who didn’t start acting tough until 2005 when he started making money. How does he have any ammo shit talking to anybody now that I think of it?
Oh, and King pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of congress in 1992 when asked if the Gambino Crime Family were involved in his boxing business, specifically on his relationship with John Gotti.
Now, I’m not saying Don King is going to topple the UFC or will be good for the sport. But to write him off as being no better than Gary Shaw is a mistake. Zuffa will be forced to go into war-mode when Don King starts up.