The Longest Fingers in Boxing are Attached to Don King
King - his Name & his Status in Boxing
81 year old Don King still has his fingers in the till of nearly every boxing venue in all 50 states
by Bill Russo
The Boxaround Gym is on the second floor of an old New England brick building that long ago outlived its original use as a garment factory.
On the ground floor there used to be a Nautilus center equipped with lithe, tanned women from the right side of the Boston tracks. The ladies worked out sweatlessly on recumbent and upright bikes, jogged prettily on the treadmills, or perhaps pretended to be climbing stairs while using elliptical machines.
Tall handsome men worked a little harder on their machines. Many of them had to train more serously because they were members of Boston's pro sports teams: Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots.
The Nautilus Center is gone now - having given way to even more 'sexy' and trendy workout centers.
But upstairs where it's 1940 forever, The Boxaround Gym is still in business, and there is always lots of sweat and a fair amount of blood. 'Bud' still runs the gym - with a cigar constantly plugged into his mouth and a fist that can still flatten a pretty good pug although Bud must be about 91 years old by now.
A standard size 20 foot square ring hugs the far wall. Rows of speed bags dot the front of the gym, sharing space with half a dozen heavy bags, hung from the ceiling like sides of beef.
As you walk up the stairs and into the boxing club, you hear the steady strumming of the speed bags that carom off the boards almost faster than the eye can track, In the pit of your stomach you feel the thud as the fighters hit the heavy bags and get them swinging like giant steeple bells. There are rowing machines, medicine balls, lots of weights and benches, and there are always at least two or three fighters jumping rope.
One afternoon in the early Fall around 1994 the Boxaround Gym was buzzing with extra excitement because of an impending visit from Don King, the flamboyant and controversial czar of professional boxing. King had promoted the sport's elite - including Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield, He even promoted Michael Jackson's victory tour - although the record
doesn't show who Mr. Jackson fought to earn this victory tour.
Foxwoods Casino, just two hours away in nearby Connecticut, was negotiating with King to promote a series of Fight Nights at the resort and King was coming to Boxaround Gym to line up some fighters for the shows, as well as to pay the purses for some fights he had run in Providence, Rhode Island - just a one hour drive from Boxaround.
King showed up with an entourage of five men - all very big, very tough looking, and very intimidating.
"Hi everyone, I'm Don King. Don't get up. Just keep working out. I will be around to talk to everyone in a little while. I'm going to be here for a few hours."
It was hard to reconcile King's gentle manner with his background as a killer and a swindler. The first death he was involved in was a 1954 backshoot that was ruled self defense and he beat the rap! King was running an illegal gambling house and apparently killed a man who
tried to rob one of his offices. The backshot fired by King was fatal - the jury's verdict was not.
His second killing came in 1967. He was involved in an altercation with one of his employees. King alleged that the man owed him $600.00. For this offense, King stomped the citizen to death.
He just started stomping and kept on stomping even as the police closed in on him. For this murder Don King was given a life sentence. Later the crime was reduced to manslaughter and the sentence was pared to fifteen years. Still later the crime was further reduced and King was paroled after serving one month shy of four years.
Over the last 40 years or so, King has not killed anyone but he has been involved in many lawsuits. Ali sued him for underpayment of over a million dollars. The suit was settled for $50,000.00. Mike Tyson sued him for $100 million. King settled out of court and paid 14 million to Tyson - who has publicly stated that King is a bad man who would kill his own Mother for one dollar. Those were the nicer things Iron Mike said about King. I left out the bad parts. Among the others who sued King are ex-champs Lennox Lewis and Chris Byrd.
I'm not telling you these things just to muddy Don's character or to get him p****d off at me (He's got long fingers and they even reach the little island where I live) but merely to show that King had a mystique about him that affected even hardcases and gym rats.
The other reason I point these things out is so that you will appreciate more what happened in the bathroom .
A few minutes after he arrived at the gym, King loudly announced that he had to go to the toilet. Somebody pointed him to it and off he went. A moment or two after King went into the restroom, the Gym manager, who we'll call 'Mike', also went into the bathroom.
A few minutes later in Mike's office, negotiations began for the upcoming Foxwoods shows. As King started to speak, Mike interupted, "Excuse me Don. Before we begin, I would just like to clear up something."
"Yes Michael speak up. Don't be shy and don't worry if it's about money. Why there's so much money in boxing today - even the fighters are getting some," King laughed heartily at his own joke.
"That's pretty funny Don. But money is not what I was angling at. Here's the thing. I had to go to the bathroom. I did not know you were in there. So I stand up at the urinal and I go. You, meanwhile, finish going. Then you zip up and walk out of the bathroom. You didn't even wash your hands!", Mike concluded...waiting for a rebuttal.
"Ha Ha. You noticed that Michael. I NEVER, NEVER WAS MY HANDS AFTER I GO TO THE BATHROOM. I wash my hands BEFORE I GO TO
THE BATHROOM. I never touch my stuff, less I wash my hands first!."
King laughed off the impertinant question and jumped right into business. He snapped his fingers and one of his men brought a leather briefcase and set it down on the desk. The Czar opened it, revealing it to be brimful of stacks of bills in denominations of twenties, fifies, and hundreds. King counted out five thousand dollars and passed it across to Mike.
Negotiations were completed in a few minutes as fighters and purses were decided for the Foxwoods shows. King left the office and spent an hour or more chatting with the fighters and trainers. Just as he was ready to leave, Robbie Sims walked in accompanied by a strikingly beautiful woman at least twenty years his junior.
Robbie Sims is Marvin Hagler's half-brother. Robbie was a pretty fair middleweight himself. He beat Roberto Duran in the late 80s and had a shot at the middleweight title. Robbie was 38 and 10 with 26 knockouts. Robbie and his companion spent a few moments with Don King and then began chatting with the rest of the group.
A few minutes later, Goody and Pat Petronelli came in. The brothers were the trainers of both Robbie Sims and longtime champ Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The petronellis had three or four prospects in the Boxaround Gym. They were still trying to find another Marvelous Marvin.
Hagler, had gone to Italy to live after he retired. He spoke very good Italian and was adopted by the country, especially after he made a series of Action movies in Italian! Marvin would come back to Massachusetts every year or so because he had considerable real estate holdings in the states. Marvin was also one of the rare fighters who knew how to manage his money...he had 38 million in the bank back in the 1990s....he's probably got fifty million by now.
Anyway getting back to Robbie Sims. Everybody in the place was buzzing about Robbie and the doll. Snide comments were being made by more than a few of the pugs.
The Petronellis heard one guy say something negative and they backed the dude up against the wall as they called out to Robbie..."Hey Robbie, bring the lady over here and introduce her to this gentleman."
"Sure", Robbie replied, "I would like everybody to meet her. Folks, please say hello to my daughter."