Here’s a hair-raising revelation: Don King turned 80 on Saturday.
The UK’s Daily Mail commemorated it with an expansive feature on King’s career. The British tabloid reported that King, based in Deerfield Beach, is keeping the celebration low key because he is busy working on several boxing promotions he is attempting to arrange, including a possible Dec. 3 rematch of the recent IBF bantamweight title bout in which Abner Mares dethroned Joseph Agbeko by controversial majority decision.
The Daily Mail piece is a classic retrospective of King’s career, which always makes for an entertaining read.
The most interesting item was that the famed Rumble in the Jungle in which aging Muhammad Ali used the rope-a-dope to upset prime-time George Foreman in Zaire was nearly the Brawl in Albert Hall. King told Daily Mail writer Jeff Powell that he wanted to stage the fight in London but couldn’t convince British promoter Jack Solomons to put up the $1.5 million down payment.
King told Powell: “Solomons was bidding for the fight and had the financial backing of Ladbrokes. I told him it could happen at the Albert Hall if he put up the rest, but he talked to his contacts in New York and he didn’t believe Big George had come to an agreement with that big black guy — me.”
Here’s how King ranked the top five fights he has promoted:
1974: Rumble in the Jungle, Ali vs. Foreman
1975: Thrilla in Manila, Ali vs. Frazier
1978: Larry Holmes, most underrated of all boxers, beats Ken
Norton despite crippled jabbing arm
1990: Julio Cesar Chavez K0s Meldrick Taylor in last seconds
1980: Roberto Duran beats Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal
His favorite fighters:
Sugar Ray Robinson
Julio Cesar Chavez
The Daily Mail published some vintage photos from King’s career. View the story and photos here.