KING, DON [DONALD FERRIN] (1932–), Ohio, Las Vegas, boxing promoter.
In the post–civil rights era, Don King had achieved unparalleled success and great wealth as a boxing promoter. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Clarence and Hattie King and had six siblings. His father died the day before his ninth birthday. King’s mother continued to support the family, but it was a difficult time. King drifted in and out of various jobs, including working as numbers* runner for a local gambling operation. He also owned a night club. In 1967, he was charged with murder, found guilty, and sentenced to four years in the Ohio Marion Correctional Institution. After his September 1971 release (in 1983 he was pardoned by the governor of Ohio), King became a small-time sports promoter, which he used as a basis to force his way into the spotlight.
King first used his power of persuasion to convince then–World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali to participate in a charity boxing event. Once King persuaded Ali’s two chief advisers, manager Herbert Muhammad (son of Elijah Muhammad*) and lawyer Charles Lomax, to allow him to get Ali in his camp, his success grew rapidly. He was soon able to get the sport’s top talent to seek him out to represent them. The first successful King spectacle was the $30 million ‘‘Rumble in the Jungle,’’ in 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire, which pitted Ali against George Foreman (who was knocked out), which placed him at the top of boxing promoters. Since then, many other championship-caliber boxers have been represented by King, including Leon Spinks, Roberto Duran, and ‘‘Sugar Ray’’ Leonard. Most recently, Mike Tyson has been the most prominent in the King camp.