Promoter Don King, whose scandal-plagued U.S. Boxing Championships tournament was suspended recently by the ABC television network, was interviewed in his New York office by staff writer Dave Brady.
Below are excerpts from that interview.
Q: How can you explain how your promotion could experience such difficulties?
A: Boxing is a very unique sport with payoffs such as agents fees, like to the William Morris Agency, or agents' fees or booking fees to Mark McCormack, the fellow who took Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player and made them multimillionaries by merchandising them.
I think this is commonplace throughout the whole entertainment world; the world of commericals, for instance, where agenst book guys.
This is commonplace in boxing. This is not saying that I condone the action because I explicitly and expressly dictated an edict that no man should be involved in taking payoffs.
Anytime you start something new it's going to have its problems but I said, let's not us make the problems.
I think that the biggest factor here is that the detractors, those who want to see the tournament destroyed, are shooting at me because in a short span of time I've had a meteoric rise in boxing because I've dealt with people as human beings, and I've dealt with them with concern and consideration and I've paid them more money than has ever been paid in the history of boxing to a prizefighter.
The Madison Square Gardens have been here long before me, the Top Ranks (a closed-circuit television firm that carries big bouts) have been here, and all the boxing people know the intricacies and intrigues of boxing were here before me.
When I came on the scene, they told me it was a business only for revenge and that it was a vicious business and I refused to accept that a man cannot have truth and commitment and integrity in boxing as he would in any other business.
And I think in paying these fighters these large, enormous purses for their services we've brought the money-hungry guys out of the woods.
They will be chasing this money, knowing that these fighters previously received only $300 or $400 a fight.
They think they can deal with the boxers because any amount of thousands that the boxers give them will be more than they're ever gotten before.
So they'd be satisfied in sharing whatever the booty there would be from the labors of myself and ABC.
All boxing people are liars. You can hardly believe anything a boxing manager says. This is why I resent vehemently Ring Magazine, knowing boxing people having been in the business to taking a boxing manager's word.
Every boxing manager is a liar by trade, because he must scheme to try to get his fighter into position to get the most coveted award of that respective weight category before the other guy.
We recognized from the very beginning that we were not going to get the best caliber of fighters to come into this tournament. It was an innovative thing, it was new, it was something that we were going to start and as it went along it would automatically, by the smashing TV ratings, would then evolve into what would be the same as the National Football League, or the NCAA. They didn't start out lily-white and pure and they didn't start without problems.
Q: Regarding the charge of kick-backs, which is a difficult term to define because as Al Braverman said in Annapolis, a 10 per cent agency fee is nothing unusual. Now, of course, the George Kanter arrangement with Kenny Weldon is different. Weldon paid a lot of money ($23,000) and he did it willingly, he says. I'm not saying there's anything wrong, except if there was nothing wrong why was Kanter told to give it back by James Farley of the tournament committee? Farley said that Kanter promised he would give it back. Incidentally, I think you know the young man did not get the money back. How can these things happen?
A: Let's start off with the Kenny Weldon case and George Kanter, I think it is absolutely abominable, a man who has made his life out of booking boxers.
I asked George Kanter to forego the usual run-of-the-mill booking fee if he had a boxer in the tournament. I didn't want anyone to take any booking fees.
Q: Wasn't a fighter supposed to get in the tournament just on the basis of his ranking?
A: On the basis of the ranking. What happened with George Kanter is greed got to George Kanter. The fellow (Weldon's representative, Harlan Haas) called George; George didn't solicit this fellow and they worked this deal out and George didn't have the forthrightness to say no.
George Kanter did not have the strength to pass up a 'score'. He knew that the kid could get in on his own without him, just based on his ranking and all Weldon had to do was pick up the phone and say he was active and that he wanted to be in the tournament, here's my address where you can send my application.
But now let's come down to reality. Let's get pragmatic and let's deal with the fact. Kickback, we've got to deal with this fact. To rigging records, we got to deal with this fact, so we got our man. Michael Armstrong, the counsel for the Knapp Commission. We want him to ferret out the wrong-doing, we want him to get a blue ribbon committee.
We want to authenticate and certify the fights that those kids are having, along with using the Ring ratings. We want the Ring magazine, if the Ring is still going to be involved, to reshuffle its deck, restructure its rating system.
What I want to do is to see that boxing comes out of this, survival. Even if the patient is weak, as long as it survives we got an opportunity then to make it strong.
Jim Farley, the chairman of the New York Boxing Commission, put his name and his reputation on the line. He went out there to make sure that all those bouts were conducted in an impeccable manner. He made certain that they had ringside physicians. He had autonomy, he was the only one who could pick the officials . . . a judge, an official that refereed the bouts. No one else could do that.
In fact, when he came to me and I asked him to be a part of the program it was on three conditions. No. 1, that he didn't get paid, No. 2, that we use the rules and regulations of New York, but with the flexibility to use in whatever state the respect and honor to let them merge with us if they have a 10-point rule system, and No. 3, that he would have the total autonomy to deal with whatever has to be dealt with, and the power to put out a fighter, or a manager, in the event that the manager was found doing any wrongdoing or whatever.
If the American people find me wrong then I want to be castigated the same way that I'm talking about castigating someone else. I am not invulnerable. I want to let you know that I know I ain't got nothing to hide.
Boxing is my life. I feel it is something that I love. I make money with it. I support my family with it. I rose from the ashes of the phoenix - with it and I'm not about to let anyone contaminate, corrupt it, or give it a black eye without fighting back.