Saturday, July 19, 2008

Only in America

Independence Day - He calls himself the “world’s greatest promoter” and you won’t get any argument from this corner on that one. Love him or hate him - there's only one Don King. He’s patriotic, he's flamboyant, he’s comical, and when he’s not around anymore there will be nobody that can take his place.

For nearly 40 years he’s been as much a part of boxing as anyone alive. He’s promoted the biggest fights this planet has known and along the way he’s been there for everything from “The Rumble in the Jungle” to "The Thrilla in Manila" to "The Pride and the Glory" to “The Sound and the Fury”.

He’s 76-years old now, and we don’t see him around the big events as much as many of us would like. But Don King is still here. He still teases his electrified hair, still wears his diamond pinky ring, still smokes big cigars and is most comfortable in his fraying, sequined jean jacket. Don King is still promoting, still magnanimous, still a huckstering fast-talker, and still larger than life.

So on this July 4th, in our nation’s 232nd year, Don King has a few things he wants you to know about. Most of all, Don King wants you to know that he loves America.

“Come together, black and white alike, and enjoy sports as sports should be, in harmony,” is Don’s wish for American boxing fans on our country’s birthday.

“America is where all the friction and the fraction and the ultimate satisfaction will be derived," and he's positively infectious when he says it.

"We didn’t forget 9-11, we didn’t forget those who are the fallen but not forgotten. We didn’t forget that the terrorists are still out there. We’re going to continue to work together with a unified effort - with unity, solidarity and togetherness to prevail. And to demonstrate again that America is number one in the world and that we are proud to be Americans and we don‘t take it sittin‘ down!”

Certainly Don King has every reason to love America. After all, it’s not in every country that a man can go from running numbers on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio to state prison to promoting the world’s biggest events to zipping around the globe on a private jet. King has dined with kings and campaigned with presidents.

Don King doesn’t take America for granted and, he says, neither should you.

“All roads lead to freedom! Freedom and liberty are words that cry out in your heart for everybody to be there, you know what I mean? I can’t find the words to describe nor depict my dedication and commitment to the betterment of this country!” bellows King.

“I had an opportunity to go to Kennebunkport with our President,” said Don, who is currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“But I couldn’t make it. Nobody would believe the opportunity that I have to be with presidents, big guys, and statesmen all over the world. My schedule just don’t permit me to do that. Other people would die for it. But I’d die for America, you know what I mean?”

It’s no secret that King has been a big supporter of our current President, George W. Bush, a man that many in the country will be happy to see leave the White House in January. But that doesn’t mean that Don can’t switch allegiances from Republican to Democrat and from Bush to Barack Obama.

You must understand that Don King is always with the winner (remember he stepped into the Jamaican ring with Joe Frazier and left with George Foreman) and he proudly proclaims that he’ll go with whoever can keep America strong.

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. Endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! That’s the dedication and commitment for me. And whoever is there to fulfill that prophecy - that’s who I’m with!” he says of his choice for the next President of the United States.

But more importantly for boxing fans, what does Don King think about the serious lack of Americans in the heavyweight division? After all, King built his kingdom by promoting Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Holmes, Tyson and Holyfield. Now, however, there is barely a U.S. born heavyweight ranked in the top 10.

Here is that problem broken down, at least as far as King sees it: “The Russians are coming, you know what I mean?” he asks rhetorically, alluding to the fact that a division once dominated by Americans is now flush with Russians and those from the former Soviet Empire.

“It’s important to me not as a promoter, but as an American, to see an American rise up,” he explains. “It has to be done by the American himself, to do this, to make guys rise up. That is the spirit of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesse Jackson who were trying to instill in the youth. You gotta’ be able to deal, you know?”

But on this July 4th - King’s message is not about boxing, it's about America and freedom and education.

“When you are fighting for the struggle here, we are continuing to move," he says. "The struggle is contagious and addictive all around the world. When I went to Poland, they were talking about the black movement. When I went to France, they were talking about the black movement. All of these different things that was moving, looking for freedom because it was all synonymous. They was all looking for the same thing - Freedom! This is what William Wallace was doin’ over there in Scotland - Freedom!”

“So the idea of it is, to get that, you got to be educated enough and enlightened enough to know what it means. And when you know what it means, other than just the shackles and the fetters, you understand what it means. Education and enlightenment and upward mobility and stature and esteem and being able to consider your fellow man like you consider yourself. Then - that’s what education does to us!”

“That’s why I really like Laura Bush because she’s an advocate of education,” he continues without taking a breath.

“And with ‘No Child Left Behind’ certainly you can find the critics with Bush’s program. But at least it’s a program inclusive of all people. So let us work with whatever the glitch is, rather than condemn the program because we don’t like the man.”

“This is what I’m saying, and when you fight for those type of things you’re gonna’ get ‘em. And it disseminates throughout all sports and all of life. It ain’t just about sports. Sports has been a great catalyst to bring people together, you know what I mean? To enable us to go side-by-side with the Jackie Robinsons breaking the color barrier in baseball. There really never shoulda’ been a color barrier. That’s what you gotta’ go to. The cause - not the reason!”

Don King is a flag-waving, patriot promoter, a tireless supporter of our troops and a man that believes in the American Dream. On this July 4th he’s still here, still living the dream.

And he still talks fast, too.

Independence Day, July 4, 2008

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