Don King is one of those names you just know in your bones. Even people who know nil about boxing have probably heard the name Don King. He rose from a poverty-stricken childhood and a life of crime to become one of the most successful boxing promoters the world had ever seen. Despite just being a boxing promoter, working with legends like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and George Foreman, he somehow always managed to turn the spotlight on himself.
He was flamboyant, larger than life, domineering, and the first Black man to achieve such heights in the industry. But his life of crime was certainly not behind him when he entered the ring, and “Power: Don King” asks how one stays at the top of a sport known for fame, fortune, and excess.
“Power: Don King” is the third installment of Somethin’ Else’s “Power” series. The first season brought us the story of Ghislaine Maxwell and the mysterious death of her media tycoon of a father, Robert Maxwell. The second is the sordid saga of Hugh Hefner, his Playboy mansion, and the problem with mixing sex and power. This season will be seven episodes long, documenting the shady underbelly of boxing and the man who came to inherit it.
Don made boxers millionaires, lining his own pockets along the way. Not only was he a marketing savant, coining “Thrilla in Manila” and “Rumble in the Jungle” as the taglines for Ali’s biggest bouts, but he was a people person if there ever was one. He transcended boxing, brushing shoulders with U.S. presidents, being spotted next to Nelson Mandela, even crossing industries to promote the musical dynasty that was the Jackson family. Along with the spotlight came power, and along with power came controversy that the media was all too happy to exploit.
Tax evasion, fraud, and lawsuits galore from his most prized boxers are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also mafia ties and even accusations of murder that made Don even more famous than if he were just a promoter. As host Panama Jackson tells us, to understand Don we have to look at the big picture. Boxing was rife with corruption, and Don wasn’t the only one bending the rules to his will.
The first episode of this podcast follows Don from growing up in poverty and living a young life of crime before finally making it into the ring by attaching himself to the biggest name in the sport – from the murder of Hillary Brown, to avoiding a life sentence, his friendship with singer Lloyd Price, to convincing Muhammad Ali to bow in a charity exhibition for a local hospital.
For three decades, Don ran boxing. And that power certainly went to his head. “Power: Don King” looks at the seedy underbelly of the industry, the rise of a poor kid from Cleveland who became the most powerful person in the sport, and how “celebrity, race, bright lights, and capitalism” played into the life of Don. If you didn’t know who Don King was before, or didn’t know just how he became the stuff of legends, this podcast will introduce you to the man who revolutionized boxing.