Whatever Happened To Don King?

Don King, boxing's biggest promoter with the biggest hair, rose to fame after staging the "Rumble in the Jungle" and the "Thrilla in Manila." After his work with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, and Roberto Duran, it's been a while since we heard King shout "Only in America." Between lawsuits, hijacked trucks, and manslaughter, King hasn't been in the spotlight, but he has been busy.

He's been dealing with his troubled children

Life hasn't been great to the King family. His daughter Debbie was evicted from her home in Florida after her crack cocaine habit got out of hand in 2000 and King had to take in her two children. Debbie continued to struggle with abuse, and in 2006, she managed to get a DUI and be arrested for drug possession all in one week. Since then, Debbie was able to get clean and is now a drug abuse counselor. She founded Limitless Life Recovery and hopes to one day open up her own treatment center.

Her brother's story has a less happy ending. After marrying Muhammad Ali's sister-in-law, Eric King was arrested and jailed in 2000 for failing to pay child support for his daughter from former girlfriend Ana Carril. The marriage only lasted a month, but Eric's deadbeat dad troubles went on for a lot longer. Daughter Nathalie's paternity was in dispute, because Eric insisted that in the two years of traveling together and sleeping in the same bed, as he stated to the New York Post, they "didn't have the kind of sex that would produce a child." Hmm. Maybe Don King failed to give Eric the birds and the bees talk. Anyway, paternity was established, and Eric was the father.

After being jailed for his lack of payments, Eric paid his daughter $100,000 and was ordered to continue to pay $344 a month in child support. He paid for a little while, but funds quickly dried up for Nathalie. In 2005, Eric promised the court that he would keep up to date on his payments, but that promise only lasted five months. So, in 2008, Eric received a court order telling him to pay $10,000 in back child support or go to jail. Does Nathalie have any sympathy for her father? No. She told the NY Daily News, "He's nothing to me. He's like dirt."

He almost had the street where he killed a man in Cleveland named after him

Fun facts about Don King: He's from Cleveland, and he's a murderer!

Okay, he technically hasn't been convicted of murder, but he has killed two men. King shot a man who was trying to rob one of his gambling houses. This was ruled a "justifiable homicide," so King never served jail time. But when he curbstomped an employee to death because he owed him $600, King didn't get quite so lucky. According to the Washington Post, he literally stomped a man to death on the street, he was convicted of non-negligent manslaughter, and he served four years in prison. His record is clean today, though, because Governor Jim Rhodes pardoned the crime in 1984.

Ohio had so completely forgiven him, the Post reported that the city of Cleveland would name a street in King's honor. The very same street where killed a man was proposed to become "Don King Way." The city council was split over the idea, and after a lot of bad press, the council decided to keep King's name off of the murder scene.

His turkey truck was hijacked

Don King's whole life wasn't just devoted to shady dealings with clients and murder. He really did try to give back to the people in need. In fact, every year, he would give out around 2,000 turkeys for Christmas to poor families near his home in Delray Beach, Florida. But in 2011, his gift of turkeys was foiled by a strange crime.

One of his turkey trucks got hijacked. The thief didn't keep all the turkeys to himself or try to sell off the hot birds but abandoned the truck near Pompano Beach. By the time police found the truck, it wasn't clear if the turkeys had been refrigerated properly, so they all had to be thrown out. Why someone would hijack a truck full of turkeys is a mystery, but King has a way of attracting mysterious events in his life.

He wanted to unite North and South Korea with a boxing match

Just because King has encountered some difficult times doesn't mean he lacks high aspirations. He does love the sport of boxing and thought he could put together a fight to really make some change in the world. In 2012, King wanted to put together a bout to unite North and South Korea. Through fighting, may they achieve peace.

CNN reported that King wanted to stage a music event and fight in North Korea. Why? "This came about by me thinking about Korea and feeling that Korea, that it should be one Korea," said King. He was inspired by the words of Michael Jackson who "told me that music is the ribbon that ties humanity together. And I added to that boxing is a catalyst that brings humanity together to be tied."

Though one could argue that music can be used as a uniting force between cultures, there haven't been a lot of boxing matches that ended in peace treaties (except for at the end of Rocky IV where Rocky clearly solved the US/Soviet Union conflict by beating Ivan Drago). King has yet to get his "Harangue in Pyongyang," but with the powers of Don King and Kim Jong-un combined, you never know what could happen.

You can tell he's not doing well because of his hair

King knows that things aren't the best for him right now. He can tell because of his hair. According to Grantland, when asked about his hair, King told a reporter, "My hair is God's aura. Everything went up when I got home from the penitentiary. One night I went to lie down next to my wife, and my hair started popping and uncurling all on its own—ping, ping, ping, ping! I knew that it was God telling me to stay on the righteous path so he could one day pull me up to be there with him."

His hair didn't gain Godly sentience just once. It continues to adjust based on King's life. "When I'm doing good, the hair goes straight up," King said. "Now that things are difficult, the hair has gotten a little flatter." Now, since his hair is "God's aura," does that mean that God is also not doing well when King is suffering? Or God just got tired of pulling all his hairs up all the time? Only King knows the answers behind his mystery hair, but know that if he ever gets a buzz cut, something really wrong has occurred.

King pretended to play the piano to woo the Klitschko brothers

It's been a while since King has represented any top-level talent. So when he got the opportunity to pitch himself to the Ukrainian boxing duo the Klitschko brothers, he pulled out all the stops. In the documentary Klitschko, they show the brothers first meeting with King, just after Wladimir won a gold medal in 1996. King sweet talks the boys, trying to get them to sign a clearly not great for them contract, but the brothers don't take the bait.

To prove that King's a serious person and an artist more than a businessman, he sits down at his piano and begins to play. At first, it's pretty impressive, until the Klitschkos realize that it's a player piano and King is faking the whole thing.

King's choice to put on his little player piano show did not please the brothers, so they left and never went back. This brings up a very important question. How often did Don King use his piano trick to win over boxing clients? We can't imagine that was the first time. Maybe Mike Tyson couldn't resist his version of the "Moonlight Sonata," and the partnership started from there.

He sued ESPN for defamation of character

In 2005, ESPN aired a Sportcentury segment that rubbed King the wrong way. So he sued the channel for $2.5 billion.

The show said that King was a "snake-oil salesman" and killed "not once, but twice." They also claimed that King shorted Muhammad Ali by $1.2 million. Ali did sue King for $1.2 million, though he retracted the suit after allegedly receiving an under the table cash settlement from King. Though King wasn't convicted of murder, it is a documented fact that he's killed two people. That just leaves the "snake oil salesman" charge, which would be hard to prove since it's merely a turn of phrase. Even if false, it's not likely worth $2.5 billion in damages.

After a trial and appeal, the courts felt that King could not prove that ESPN defamed him. Judge Dorian Damoorgian of the Florida Appeals Court said, "Nothing in the record shows that ESPN purposefully made false statements about King to bolster the theme of the program or to inflict harm on King." The lesson: if you don't want people saying you're a killer, you probably shouldn't kill people.

He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame despite controversies

Though King's name is controversial, his work within the field of boxing is still honored. In 2013, he was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. Former clients Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes were in the same class of inductees, though both had previously sued King for stealing their money.

It seemed the Hall of Fame was willing to look beyond King's troubled past and celebrate his positive contributions to the industry. Since the other inductees that year included a man with DUIs and a convicted rapist, they are clearly looking at people's greatness in boxing and nothing else.

He's still promoting boxers

King may not be promoting the big names of boxing anymore, but that doesn't mean he's out of the game. Sports Illustrated reported that King still shows up to fights with the men in his stable, though the fights are a lot smaller. King will wave his 17 flags, shout his catch phrases, then scoot out the backdoor when his guy loses.

The once-bustling Don King Productions now resides in an unmarked building in Florida that serves as a museum to his past triumphs and few signs of future success. One of his biggest clients, Eric Molina, only made $250,000 on his WBC heavyweight championship fight, a far cry from the millions King used to rake in for his top-level clientele. The man has caused hype, excitement, and controversy to the world of boxing for years. Now, boxing has left him behind, but he still clings to his persona to get some final moments in the spotlight.