The end is nigh for Don King, surely. But as he tells Steve Brenner, he’s not ready to retire just yet
DON KING has been involved in some of the greatest nights in history.
New York. Las Vegas. The Thrilla in Manilla. Rumble in the Jungle.
The Hall-of-Fame promoter has put together over 500 title fights.
It’s fair to say, however, that Daniel Dubois against Trevor Bryan in a barely full, run down Miami casino won’t be etched into his own folklore.
It won’t be recalled by many others with much fondness now other than a triumphant Dubois.
Yet if this is to be the 90 year-old King’s last tilt at glory, it was quite a sad way to bow out.
A dilapidated venue, creaking like the old boy is now, while woefully promoting a fighter who was never in the mix against a far stronger, better opponent all contributed to a feeling of the end game for King who sat near the ring, motionless for most of it.
The Miami Jai-Alai Casino is like an old show hall from back in the 1970’s with rust on the seats and damp on the floor. Why, there was even a full court for Jai-Alai, a kind of racketball game which uses a wicker glove/racket which was turned into a rather lively hospitality area.
So not quite the MGM Grand or Madison Square Garden.
“It was very strange,” said Dubois’ trainer Shane McGuigan of the elongated build-up to the actual fight which saw too many people sandwiched into the ring for too long while a bemused looking King sat on a chair taking it all in.
“It would be disrespectful for me to call it shambles, you can’t knock Don King because he’s been there and done it but there was no real promotion and no atmosphere.
“We are in 2022 and everything just screamed of old age. It was a good experience for Dan though.”
Add that to the bizarre venue which was creaking at the seams and facilities which would have Sunday pub football teams turning up their noses and it was yet another surreal night in the land of King. It was billed as ‘The Fight for Freedom and Peace’ and was available here in the US on King’s own website as a pay-per-view for $29.99. If the sales eclipsed the 400 or so actually in attendance, then knock me down with one of the little flags he so loves waving around.
Will the American legend keep going? Of course he will.
“I should have been dead 50 years ago,” King told Boxing News. “I had the mafia blowing things up and shooting me in the head. But I want to give something back.”
Oh, he does that all right. There can’t be too many men who command the room like King even if he’s warbling veers from incoherent to off the wall bonkers at times.
“He’s phenomenal,” said Barry McGuigan.
“What a character. Will I be doing this when I’m 90? I’m not so sure.”
His rival of all these years, Bob Arum, seems to have his boxing house in order, with fingers in the pie of Tyson Fury among many talented others.
For King, the well is almost dry.
One prominent New York promoter was at a loss when asked who is the man to contact to get involved on a Don King show these days. Another said he was a pioneer who should have finished a couple of years ago.
That’s if there will be another show after this.
A date in August was mentioned although staff close to King said it was news to them.
Barry McGuigan, nevertheless, is still a fan.
“Bob is still around but in all reality, he doesn’t have the same chutzpah. He’s amazing. He’s remarkable, he’s a part of history and the game for the last 50 years.
“I have huge respect for him.”
The stage was set during fight week but the main man wasn’t there.
Dubois sat patiently in his seat at the main press conference ahead of this WBA heavyweight fight with Bryan sat on the other side, both big unites flanked by members of the undercard.
All the fighters were in place.
Now all the event needed was the star attraction. Soon enough, necks were craned and Don King shuffled in, flag waving wearing the same old oversized denim jacket which has hung off him for years.
Say what you like about the 90-year-old – and there’s a lot of badness to get stuck into if you take a moment and see what he was jailed for back in the day – but he remains pure box office.
The ramblings are long, much of them incoherent yet always coming from a good place.
“I’ve just been speaking to Ukraine,” he said. And off he went, barely catching his breath.
Those fighters who were new to the circus looked on, almost in disbelief as the King lurched from one global crisis to another, speaking with the enthusiasm of someone half his age.
But for a man whose life will be etched into boxing – and sporting – history, this well could have been his last dash at glory.
If Bryan had seen off Dubois – which was never going to happen – and manoeuvred himself into a position of strength in the heavyweight division, King may have been in place for one last glorious swansong under the lights of Las Vegas or New York City.
How he would have loved that.
That said, nothing can detract from the legend of the man who was by Ali and Mike Tyson’s, among many others, sides for years.
“There’s obviously a reason why Bob’s still doing it along with Don,” added Frank’s son, Francis Warren.
“It’s just their love of the game or some sort of addiction – you want to be the guy that promotes that guy to that fight at that level but he’s been there and done it I.
“Still though, I suppose with all the money in the world and all the adulation over the years he wants to get more.
“If you work with the right people, then you will be doing it for a long time.”
The last word, however, belongs to King.
What makes him get up in the mornings, his body creaking, the twilight of his career now fully upon us all?
“I’m in to give back to the people,” he said. “You can’t be greedy, you have to help those less fortunate. We want to take care of the homeless too.
“We got to take care of the homeless, to give them another chance in life so that’s what I’m looking to do.
“You have to work for it , fight for it, live for it and die for it. I’m fighting for the people, to give something back.”
That fight is almost over. But what a ride it’s been.