Don King is synonymous with the world of boxing. As one of the sport’s most well-known promoters, he is one of the main reasons for boxing’s explosion in popularity in the 1970s and 80s, introducing the world to names like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Mike Tyson. Now 88 years old, where is Don King today and what is his net worth?
Don King joins the world of boxing
Don King and his checkered past have been well documented. He ran an illegal bookmaking operation in the 1950s. He was charged with killing two men 13 years apart. And he served time in prison.
Upon his release from prison, King decided to pursue a career as a boxing promoter. King’s first break came when he met Muhammad Ali and convinced him to fight in a charity event to raise money for a local hospital. After that initial event, King partnered with another boxing promoter who had years of experience and a stable of fighters.
King learned from his mentor and then became a prominent figure in the sport in 1974 when he out-dueled other promoters by working with the government of Zaire in securing a then-record $10 million purse for the first Muhammad Ali-George Foreman bout, known as “The Rumble in the Jungle.” That single fight, which was viewed on television by one billion people worldwide, propelled King to the top of the boxing promotion hierarchy.
His legendary career as boxing’s greatest promoter
A year after The Rumble, King teamed up with Ali again in his next fight, and promoted the bout against Joe Frazier, which would be held in the Philippines and, in typical Don King-style, had a catchy title known as the “Thrilla in Manilla.”
Ali’s worldwide success with King enticed other talented boxers to join forces with the brash promoter. In the 1970s, King worked with some of the biggest names in boxing including Larry Holmes, Wilfred Benítez, Roberto Durán, Salvador Sánchez, Wilfredo Gómez, Alexis Argüello, and many others.
For the next 20-plus years, talented boxers flocked to King, hoping to headline a card and earn big paydays in the process. Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio César Chávez, Bernard Hopkins and countless others signed deals with the promoter. What many fighters would allege years later was King could land the big fights with the big payouts, but all too often the large amounts of money never made it to the fighters’ bank accounts.
King’s controversies throughout his career
Not surprisingly, Don King’s questionable ethics before boxing followed him into the sport. No fighter was exempt from King’s low-balling tactics, including Ali. In 1982, Ali sued King for underpaying him $1.1 million for his fight with Larry Holmes. In the hospital with ailing health, Ali signed off on a deal accepting a $50,000 cash settlement from King.
That pattern of behavior dogged King throughout his career as a promoter. Numerous fighters accused him of cheating them of large amounts of money. Mike Tyson, who has been estranged from King for years, described him as “ruthless, “deplorable,” and “greedy.” Tyson sued King for $100 million, alleging he had cheated him out of millions over more than a decade. King settled out of court for $14 million.
Other boxers that sued King include Terry Norris, Lennox Lewis, and Larry Holmes. Holmes once said of the promoter, “King’s an equal opportunity dirtbag, he screws everybody.”
Where is Don King today and what is his net worth?
At age 88, King has mostly withdrawn from the world of boxing. He’s been a recluse for the last ten years since his wife of 50 years, Henrietta, died in 2010. His trademark head of gray hair has wilted considerably.
He lives in Deerfield Beach, Florida and has a staggering net worth of $150 million, although many boxers still contend that’s not really all of his money.
While King hasn’t promoted a big heavyweight fight in years, he said in a New York Times interview, he would be happy to promote another big fight, but the sport has changed so much, in particular the fighters and their desire.
“These guys are not dedicated and committed to the sport like the older guys were. They all want to read the headlines, and when you go out and extol them virtuously and say things about them, they believe the things to the extent they don’t have to do nothing. They believe it’s going to be like osmosis; it’s going to fall from the sky.”
Don King waxing poetic about boxing. Some things never change.