You don’t see Don King as visible as he once was. However in Manhattan Tuesday afternoon the general public told the 80-year old Hall of Fame promoter that he is still a recognizable face. And for the sport of boxing, King will be seen again and hopefully more often as he announced his latest promotion to be televised on the San Diego based Wealth Television Cable Network.
It is not HBO or Showtime that granted King an opportunity to televise four championship fights, part of 11 fights to be held Saturday November 5th from the Seminole Hard Rock & Casino in Hollywood Florida. The feature bout will be WBA cruiserweight champion Guillermo Jones defending his title against 14th ranked Mike Marrone.
King made an indirect reference to HBO and Showtime the two major broadcast networks of the sport. They would not give him an opportunity to showcase Jones or Joey Hernandez the United States Boxing Organization Junior middleweight champion. He made references to the past and how Wealth TV will provide an opportunity for people across the nation to see fights like they did on ABC, CBS and NBC, the major networks that televised free boxing when King was on top of the business.
Not to say that Don King is history. He is still visible but does not have the major fighters that promotions like Top Rank and Golden Boy have to offer for the networks. He wants to see boxing return to the glory days, the old school theory of putting boxing on free television. It means more for King now to see the sport thrive again.
“The downward spiral,” said King about the sport, as he held court with media before introducing Robert and Charles Herring, a father and son who launched their network in 2004. King was referring to the ineffective people running the sport and how fans have been turned off with the recent and bizarre outcomes of major fights seen on pay-per-view and the networks.
There were references by King regarding how he had to advocate and get a return bout for his fighter, bantamweight Joseph Agbeko, who will get the opportunity against Abner Mares on December 3rd. And he cited how boxing has been embarrassed with the recent outcomes of the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz and Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson title fights.
“Yesterday, today, tomorrow,” is what King said will be the theme of the telecast on a network available to over 100 cable systems across the country. The promoter, who now does most of his business in the state of Florida, said the Wealth televised card is a celebration for the people. The President of Panama is expected to attend, as well as legendary boxing champions Larry Holmes and Roberto Duran.
“A celebration for Roberto Duran and celebrate the birthday of Larry Holmes,” he said. It was vintage Don King as he waved the flags of different countries, said, “Viva Puerto Rico,” referring to one of his greatest champions, Felix Trinidad, and he of course provided his views on the economy and opportunity. It was Don King smiling, playing to the cameras, and bringing back memories of the old days.
And this will be a venture for Wealth TV. They admit this is an opportunity to expand their base. Boxing to the premier lifestyle and entertainment network may be a risk. They invested an undisclosed amount of money and days ago made the deal with King, but the 70-year old Herring, a boxing fan said, “It nicely fits into the programming vision of WealthTV.”
More televised boxing cards, by the network if successful could mean a revival for King. He said, “Return boxing back to the masses, to the fans and not pay-per-view.”
It is technology incorporated into the old school theory that Don King is attempting to do. And it was convincing enough to convince Herring that boxing needs something different, another shot for King and a new way to present boxing to fans. The availability of viewing the telecast on Verizon FIOS TV and AT&T U-verse will also enable boxing fans to see the telecast on their phones and I-Pads.
King has always been an innovator with the sport and this year reunited and co-promoted a card with a former adversary, fellow Hall of Famer Bob Arum of Top Rank. This is his latest deal that could work, and with the technology available by the network, to say the least, old school could work with the new school.
And as much as Don King has been criticized over the years, a boxing fan will always recall the heyday of King being the dominating promoter, his success with Ali, Frazier, Norton and the “Thriller in Manila.” He made references to that in a small room at the Phillippe restaurant in New York City. “All the champions are now in foreign countries,” he said. “They have escaped the country. The networks did it. You want to see fair play. Let us have a coalition for truth,” making reference to how HBO and Showtime would not make a deal for Jones, a legitimate champion with a 37-3-2 record along with 29 KO’s.
So this could work, and King did offer a WBA championship fight to his new network. “Give the people an opportunity in the land of opportunity,” he said about Jones not getting his chance on the major networks ,and thanking Herring for the chance to put his promotion back on a network.
“Go back to pride, dignity, and glory,” he continued, advocating for a national boxing commission, if done properly. No, it won’t hurt to have Don King visible again. A little more of old school boxing and a new network can’t harm the sport.
email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com