50 Fantastic Facts About Don King: The Legendary Boxing Promoter

Don King

Donald King, more famously known as Don King, is a legendary boxing promoter who has brought some of the world’s most iconic boxing matchups for us. Some of the highlights of King’s promoting career include “The Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thrilla in Manila”. Some of the most prominent boxers promoted by Don King include Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Tomasz Adamek, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz, Julio César Chávez, Ricardo Mayorga, Andrew Golota, Bernard Hopkins, Félix Trinidad, Roy Jones Jr., Azumah Nelson, and Marco Antonio Barrera. However, Don King’s life hasn’t been one of just glory and triumph, he has also had a dark side. Some boxers who Don King promoted also sued him for allegedly defrauding them. Most of these lawsuits saw out of court settlements. He was convicted (pardoned later) of manslaughter and has numerous other civil cases against him. Don King was charged with killing two people 13 years apart. In1954, Don King saw a man trying to rob one of his gambling houses and shot him in the back. It was ruled as justifiable homicide and King wasn’t convicted. However, in 1967, King was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for stomping one of his employees to death. He served almost four years in prison for the crime before being pardoned by Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes. Let’s take a look at the amazing life and career of Don King.

Don King: 50 Facts About the Legendary Boxing promoter

50 Don King Facts

1. Some of the most legendary boxers promoted by him include Muhammad Ali, “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, “Big” George Foreman, Larry ‘The Easton Assassin” Holmes, “Iron” Mike Tyson, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, Ricardo “Finito” Lopez, Salvador Sanchez and Wilfredo Gomez.

2. He has promoted over 500 world championship fights. Nearly 100 boxers have earned $1 million or more in Don King Productions-promoted fights.

3. Don King Productions holds the distinction of having promoted or co-promoted seven of the 10 largest pay-per-view events in history,: Holyfield vs. Tyson II, 1.99 million buys, June 1997; Tyson vs. Holyfield I, 1.6 million buys, November 1996; Tyson vs. McNeeley, 1.58 million buys, August 1995; and Bruno vs. Tyson, 1.4 million buys, March 1996.

4. Don King Productions holds the distinction of having promoted or co-promoted 11 of the top 15 highest-grossing live gates in the history of the state of Nevada including four of the top five: Holyfield vs. Lewis II, paid attendance: 17,078, gross: $16,860,300 date: Nov. 13, 1999; Holyfield vs. Tyson II, paid attendance: 16,279, gross: $14,277,200, date: June 28, 1997; Holyfield vs. Tyson I, paid attendance: 16,103, gross: $14,150,700, date: Nov. 9, 1996; Tyson vs. McNeeley, paid attendance: 16,113, gross: $13,965,600, date: Aug. 19, 1995; and De La Hoya vs. Trinidad, paid attendance: 11,184, gross: $12,949,500, date: Sept. 18, 1999. 

5. His first boxing promotion event took place on Aug. 28, 1972, a charity event featuring Muhammad Ali for Forest City Hospital in his hometown of Cleveland. It became the second-largest gross in history for a boxing exhibition ($80,000).

6. First to guarantee an unprecedented amount of $10 million, split between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to participate in the classic Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire, Africa, on Oct. 30, 1974. This prizefight also holds the distinction of being the first television boxing event to be viewed by one billion people worldwide.

7. First to receive $1 million to deliver a prime-time network television match for Muhammad Ali vs. Ron Lyle on May 16, 1975.

8. Promoted the classic third and final epic battle between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier known as the Thrilla in Manila viewed by over one billion people worldwide on Oct. 1, 1975.

9. First promoter to sell a fight for $2 million to a network featuring heavyweight contenders Ken Norton and Jimmy Young on ABC at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 5, 1977.

10. First promoter to sell Home Box Office (HBO) a heavyweight world-title fight telecast for I Love New York featuring Larry Holmes vs. Mike Weaver at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 22, 1979. He declined an $800,000 bid from ABC in favor of HBO for $125,000.

11. Promoter of The Last Hurrah featuring Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali, which produced the then-largest live gate in history, $6 million, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 2, 1980.

12. First promoter to guarantee a boxer $10 million when he paid that amount to Sugar Ray Leonard to face Roberto Duran at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, on June 20, 1980.

13. First promoter to guarantee $1 million fight purses to featherweights when Salvador Sanchez met Wilfredo Gomez at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Aug. 21, 1981. It took 13 years for another boxing promoter to match this feat.

14. Promoter of The Pride and the Glory featuring Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney, which produced the then-largest live gate in history, $8 million, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 11, 1982. This event also holds the distinction for the then-highest amount paid for a tape-delayed re-broadcast of a boxing match, $3 million, by ABC.

15. Promoted an unprecedented 13 world champions, exclusively, and was the first promoter to stage 23 world championship fights in the same year.

16. First promoter to sell Home Box Office (HBO) a fight for $2 million for Michael “Dynamite” Dokes vs. Mike Weaver at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 1982.

17. First promoter to establish his own television network, the Don King Sports and Entertainment Network, in 1982.

18. First and only promoter to place two world-heavyweight title bouts on the same card during The Crown Affair, which pitted Larry Holmes against Tim Witherspoon for the World Boxing Council title as well as the second clash between Michael Dokes and Mike Weaver for the World Boxing Association championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 20, 1983. First promoter to sell a package to these three television entities: closed circuit, pay television and network television.


19. Promoter of the Jackson Five’s Jacksons Victory Tour in 1984. This worldwide mega-event grossed $150 million. Don King then brokered an enormous product-endorsement deal on behalf of Michael Jackson to appear in a series of television commercials for Pepsi-Cola.

20. Sold HBO a $26 million heavyweight elimination series in 1986, which resulted in Mike Tyson being crowned the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Muhammad Ali.

21. First promoter to stage 25 world-title bouts in one year, 1986, breaking his record of 23 set in 1982. Named Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Association for 1986.

22. Named Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Association for 1987.

23. Promoter of Once and for All featuring Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks, which became the then-highest-grossing event in history exceeding $13 million at the Trump Plaza Convention Center in Atlantic City, N.J., on June 27, 1988. The fight also held the distinction for the then-largest single payday in history with Mike Tyson receiving an estimated $22 million and Leon Spinks $13.5 million.

24. Promoter of Ultimate Glory between legendary Mexican champion Julio Cesar Chavez and Hector “Macho” Camacho, which became the then-highest-grossing non-heavyweight fight in history and fastest sellout in the history of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 12, 1992.

25. Promoter of the Grand Slam of Boxing featuring four world championship bouts headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez facing Greg Haugen, which holds the record for largest in-person paid attendance in boxing history with 132,274 people packed into Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico, on Feb 20, 1993. 

26. Promoter of The Fight between Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez attended by 59,995 (the second-highest attendance ever for an indoor bout) at The Alamodome in San Antonio, Tex., on Sept. 10, 1993, which becomes the then-highest-grossing non-heavyweight match in history—breaking his own record for the third time in less than a year. Pay-per-view audience tops 1 million buys.

27. Co-promoted Judgment Day between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank for Benn’s WBC super middleweight title, which set the record for highest attendance for a British boxing match, 47,000, on the grounds of the Manchester United Club at Old Trafford Stadium on Oct. 9, 1993.

28. Promoter of Explosive Fury: Battle in Puebla featuring Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Andy Holligan, which draws 45,000 people in Puebla, Mexico, on Dec. 18, 1993.

29. Promoted, for the second time in his career, more than 20 world-title fights in one calendar year: 22 in 1993. Named Promoter of the Century by the World Boxing Association for 1993.

30. First and only promoter to put five world championships on one card—and he did it not once but four times in just over one year: Global Warfare II in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 18, 1994; Revenge… The Rematches in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 7, 1994 (Frankie Randall v Julio Cesar Chavez II; Gerald McClellan v Julian Jackson II; Simon Brown v Terry Norris II & Azumah Nelson v Jessie James Leija II); The Real Thing in the Bull Ring at the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City on Nov. 12, 1994; and Burden of Proof at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 8, 1995.

31. First and only promoter to ever hold six world-title fights on the same card—and he did it twice in one year: Judgment Day in Monterrey on Dec. 10, 1994, in Mexico and Unfinished Business on Sept. 17, 1994, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

32. Promoted an incredible 47 world championship fights in 1994—shattering his previous record of 25 title bouts in 1986. Named Greatest Promoter of All Time by the World Boxing Council in 1994. Named Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Association for 1994.

33. Only boxing promoter named to Sports Illustrated’s 40 Most Influential Sports Figures of the Last 40 Years in 1994.

34. Promoter of He’s Back featuring Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley, which became the then-highest-grossing event in history, $13,965,500, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Aug. 19, 1995. Also marked the first time a boxer (Mike Tyson) received $25 million for a 10-round fight.

35. Named Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Association for 1995.

36. First promoter to pay $30 million to a boxer when Mike Tyson received that amount to face World Boxing Council champion Frank Bruno in The Championship Part 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 16, 1996.

37. Promoter of Finally featuring Mike Tyson vs. Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, which became the then-highest-grossing event, $14,150,700, in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 9, 1996. It also became the then-most-watched pay-per-view event in history with 1.6 million buys. The match was seen around the world in more than 100 countries—shattering all previous boxing-event viewership records.

38. Named Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Association for 1996.

39. Named Promoter of the Decade by the International Boxing Federation in 1996.

40. Paid Mike Tyson more than any other athlete in history—$120 million—during the 15 months between Aug. 19, 1995, and Nov. 9, 1996, to face the following opponents: Peter McNeeley, $25 million, Las Vegas, Nevada, Aug. 19, 1995; Buster Mathis Jr., $10 million, Philadelphia, Pa., Dec. 16, 1995; Frank Bruno, $30 million, Las Vegas, Nevada, March 16, 1996; Bruce Seldon, $25 million, Las Vegas, Nevada, Sept. 7, 1996; and Evander Holyfield, $30 million, Las Vegas, Nevada, Nov. 9, 1996.

41. Promoter of The Sound and the Fury featuring the second pairing of Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and Mike Tyson, which grossed more than its predecessor to become the then-highest-grossing event in history, $14,277,200, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 28, 1997. This event also eclipsed its predecessor to become the most-watched pay-per-view event in history with 1.95 million buys.

42. First promoter inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., in 1997. Named Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Association for 1997.

43. Named Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Association for 1998.

44. Three streets in Newark, N.J., Irvington, N.J., and Orange, N.J. re-named Don King Plaza in September 1998 in recognition of King’s decades-long business and philanthropic efforts in the state of New Jersey.

45. Promoter of Kings’ Crowning Glory… The Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship between Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, which holds the record highest-grossing event ever in Madison Square Garden history and New York state history at $11,425,494 on March 13, 1999. It also holds the record for the fastest sellout for a boxing event in MSG history.

46. Co-promoted the Fight of the Millennium between Oscar De La Hoya and Felix “Tito” Trinidad Jr., which holds the record for highest-grossing non-heavyweight fight, $12,949,500, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sept. 18, 1999. This match also holds the record for most-watched non-heavyweight pay-per-view event in history at 1.4 million buys.

47. Promoted Unfinished Business… Search for the Truth re-match between Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, which holds the record for largest gross in history at, $16,860,300—the event sold out in 90 minutes—at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 13, 1999.

48. Named Promoter of the Millennium by the World Boxing Association in 1999.

49. Named Promoter of the Year for the year 1999 by www.SecondsOut.com

50. First promoter to host a boxing card at the AmericanAirlines Arena with Glory & Adventure: A Tale of Two Cities featuring Felix “Tito” Trinidad vs. Mammadou Thiam on July 22, 2000. The 12,506 paid spectators contributed to a gross of over $1.2 million.

20 Don King Quotes

1. Y’all probably blame me for that. If it were Bob Arum, you’d say, ‘There was nothing he could do.’ But you blame me, black devil motherfucker. Let me tell you something: Tyson will be heavyweight champ again. And this time, you’ll pay twice as much to see it. Why? Because y’all part of the same hypocrisy.

2. “Let me write it down for you. Muhammad Ali is a multimillionaire. Larry Holmes a multimillionaire. Mike Tyson he sleeps on a bed of money. HBO I made you motherfuckers a fortune. Oh I could go on and on. You love my black ass! You know why? Because I’m exciting. You ain’t making no movie on Bob Arum, are you? It’s entertainment, baby! That’s all! Heroes and villains, angels and devils, shit if you didn’t have Don King you would have to invent them. And for all of you out there saying this and that, remember this: many fighters step into the ring, but only one is still king.”

3. “Y’know who’s a motherfucker? The devil’s a motherfucker.”

4. “I had a moment of religious epiphanosity.”

5. “Black people don’t get no credit for nothing. All we’ve got is one word. That word is motherfucker.”

6.”Reality show? You can’t find anything better than boxing because of the trials and errors, the ups and downs, the struggle when you get knocked down to get back up. Use it symbolically and interchangeably for life.”

7. “I dare to be great. The man without imagination stands unhurt and hath no wings. This is my credo, this is my forte.”

8. “Martin Luther King took us to the mountain top: I want to take us to the bank. I’m not fighting the Civil War, I’m fighting the poverty war”

9. “Against the odd’s, I have persevered, I am the living attestation of the American dream. I am the extolment of this great nation. I have coffee and cocktails with presidents and dictators. I’m an international figure, a citizen of the world. I’ve made it.”

10. “Only in America could a Don King happen.”

11. “Man, I’ve been to jail. It was hell in there, but I survived, If they put me back, I’ll come out again. I’m one of the world’s great survivors. I’ll always survive because I’ve got the right combination of wit, grit and bullshit.”

12. “People don’t like me for the same reason they didn’t like Muhammad Ali. We’re the wrong kind of nigger. We’re not quiet. We stand up to be counted.”

13. “Do I play tennis? Man, I had one of the baddest overhead rights of anyone. Bam!”

14. “It ain’t about if he knocks a guy out. It’s about how he knocks a guy out. It’s the style, the improvisation.”

15. “Mike Tyson has been given ever penny he has coming.”


16. “Only in america will you see people circling the parking lot looking for a close space at a gym.”

17. “I don’t promote boxing, I promote people. Boxing is a catalyst to bring people together.”

18. “Machiavelli taught me it was better to be feared than loved. Because if you are loved they sense you might be weak. I am a man of the people and help them but it is important to do so through strength.”

19. “Muhammad Ali – he was a magnificent fighter and he was an icon… Every head must bow, every knee must bend, every tongue must confess, thou art the greatest, the greatest of all time, Muhammad, Muhammad Ali.”

20. “You can be the greatest guy in the world but if you ain’t got no heart, you ain’t gonna survive.”

So those were some of the most interesting facts and famous quotes by the legendary boxing promoter Don King. As far as boxing is concerned, even though he never fought a single bout, he is a true icon of the sport.

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