April 7th, 2014 By Pedro FernandezKING STILL STANDING FOUR DECADES AFTER “RUMBLE”
San Francisco, CA- The English language could explain this no simpler. Ether you like Don King or you don’t. Having always found a way to pierce his shield, I used to love to challenge the guy his peeps used to refer to simply as “DK.” Now in his 82 turn of the Roman Calender, I simply call him Don. The Donald has been promoting fights since 1974 and the “Rumble In The Jungle” aka Muhammad Ali-George Foreman.
King who had had a piece of Earnie Shavers after doing his first wooing of a fighter when he wooed the hardest puncher in boxing history away from fellow Cleveland native Don Elbaum. But as a promoter, that cherry was popped with Ali-Foreman in Zaire, Africa. Don had gotten a reported $10 million for a site fee from President Mabutu who had great hopes of his country becoming the next French Riviera in tourism and that this fight would bring it priceless worldwide media exposure.
ZAIRE WAS A JUNGLE FOR SURE
But it wasn’t peaches and cream in Zaire leading up to the September 1974 match for a 24-year old Foreman as George was hated by the locals. His having a number of German Shepard dogs, a trait locals could only tie to the slave owners started George down the path of being the heel (bad guy) in this promotion.
CHAMPION CUT RIGHT BEFORE FIGHT
Getting cut in sparring, causing a delay of the fight for six weeks until the eventual October 30 fight night. Most of us fans, fighters, pundits, few gave Ali a chance seeing Foreman all but decapitated Joe Frazier with an uppercut that lifted Joe’s feet off the canvas. I remember my dad Pedro said after the fight was signed. “There’s nothing wrong in wanting Ali to win, but we saw what George can do at Newman’s Gym and he was 17. Ali’s old at 32. Did you see what he did to Joe Frazier?”
FIGHT WAS POSTPONED DUE TO FOREMAN CUT
So this tense lead up to the fight got even more heated as rumor spread around that Foreman had got cut. Jack Fiske of the SF Chronicle knew it before it was announced that the Rumble in The Jungle was on hold until Foreman mended. Speaking of Foreman, he could feel the dislike that the locals had for him and he got either paranoid or concerned depending how you look at it.
FOREMAN FORBIDDEN FROM LEAVING COUNTRY
Attempting to leave the country, King told Mubutu that if Foreman was allowed to go that there was nothing guaranteeing his coming back for the rescheduled fight. Ali wasn’t going anywhere, but George couldn’t wait to get the hell out of a place where he was despised. He would tell me years later that he wasn’t happy that Mubutu put a military team on George and his company to ensure he wasn’t going anywhere until after he fights Ali.
THE FIGHT SURPRISED MANY AND ESTABLISHED KING
Some six weeks later, Ali and Foreman are set to fight. A now iconic figure in televised boxing makes his debut as Don King’s TV guy in Colonel Bob Sheridan. The fight was drama, intrigue, and an unlikely outcome as Ali clobbered Foreman in round eight. Don King has went on to be the most prolific promoter in history. “Either you like Don King or you don’t.” But you can’t tell me boxing wasn’t more exciting when Don was King. Should Severn best Arreola in the May rematch, the Don will be back playing promotional hardball.