When it comes to boxing, very few men behind the scenes are as notorious as Don King. A boxing promoter, King has promoted some of the biggest boxers in some of their biggest fights, ever. But, like many people in the shady side of boxing, Don King had plenty of scandals, and he escaped from his biggest one totally unscathed.
Don King creates the United States Boxing Championships
The year was 1976, and it was the 200th anniversary of the birth of the United States. Not only that, but Rocky had become the smash hit of the year. Plus, as The Boxing Tribune said, the U.S. boxing team had done really well for the country during the 1976 Olympics, as it brought home five gold medals.
King thought that this was a great time to host a great, big boxing tournament that featured only Americans in every weight class. The idea was to celebrate not just boxing, but American boxing.
King sold the idea to ABC and ABC was on board, according to The Boxing Tribune. ABC was still skeptical, but King had struck a deal with Ring Magazine, which was a popular boxing magazine, in order to give the tournament some legitimacy.
In any case, skepticism aside, ABC invested $1.5 million into King’s tournament, according to The Boxing Tribune. King gave Ring Magazine $70,000 as part of their deal, as King wanted to use the magazine’s rankings of boxers for the tournament. In modern dollars, ABC gave King $6.8 million and King paid Ring Magazine $300,000.
The fake and fixed tournament is formed
As The Boxing Tribune wrote, with the funding in place, King just needed to find boxers who wanted to box for the tournament. King wasn’t being paid much for this part of the job, but he had shadier motives. King, by telling boxers about how big of a deal this tournament was going to be, was trying to get boxers to sign exclusive contracts with him.
This was King’s endgame, according to The Boxing Tribune. He wanted exclusive deals with the best boxers in every weight class. This would’ve meant that he’d get his hands on pretty much every big fight in the game, and so, he’d make a ton more money in the future.
But that wasn’t the end of it. King now needed opponents for his boxers to fight. The Boxing Tribune said that this was where Ring Magazine came in. Inactive fighters and boxers with poor records somehow climbed the ranks of Ring Magazine’s rankings. At least 11 people had unearned rankings and several boxers were found to have won fake fights that never happened.
The tournament collapses, but Don King stays free
The tournament started, and in the early phases, a boxer who wasn’t connected to King in any way, Scott LeDoux, talked to the media about how the tournament was a scam and that the fights were rigged in favor of King’s boxers. Dan Rather, the famous anchor of CBS News, reported on this and it didn’t take long before the tournament started collapsing.
After the details of the tournament were unveiled to ABC, ABC canceled the tournament entirely. The Boxing Tribune said that King was able to escape any repercussions by simply passing the blame onto his associates. They were punished, but King was not. Ring Magazine lost a lot of credibility, but it has since built it back up.
After this controversy, King continued to be the face of boxing promotion. His most famous client after this scandal has to be Mike Tyson, though there was some controversy in their relationship, too.