- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Don King is the father of irony.
He doesn't just appreciate irony. He creates it, nurtures it and embraces it. Take yesterday in Baltimore, for example. Don King held court literally at a news conference to kick off the promotional tour for the second Hasim Rahman-Lennox Lewis fight, to take place Nov. 17 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The scene was the Baltimore City Council chambers, and the news conference was staged as a trial. Who was the presiding judge, robes and all?
That's right. The man who has been before more judges than Willie Sutton.
"We're going to have some discipline in here," said King, banging the gavel, dressed in judges robes. "This is the courtroom of heavyweight boxing."
The way it was set up, Baltimore's favorite son, Rahman, the newly-crowned heavyweight champion, was the defendant, because he will be defending the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles he took from Lewis in a stunning upset, a fifth-round knockout on April 21 in South Africa.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley served as Rahman's defense attorney, and declared that his defendant would "defend his title against this Saxon foe," referring to Lewis, the British heavyweight. Citing the Revolutionary War and the Battle of 1812, O'Malley said "our champion will again repel this modern day British challenge."
Lewis spoke in his own defense. "I think it was a fluke when he beat me," said the former champion, who will be 36 on Sunday. "It was a great punch. I don't think anyone could stand up to a punch like that. But lightning can't strike in the same place twice, and I don't think Rahman can do the same thing again."
Rahman, too, got a chance to plead his case. He presented Lewis with a "belt," courtesy of Hobo, the clothing company Rahman endorses "because that is the only belt he is getting."
Rahman also told the mayor to begin planning the champion's next victory celebration "convertible free" referring to the accident that took place after Rahman left city hall following his victory celebration after the Lewis fight when he and his family were thrown from a convertible involved in a crash.
The 29-year-old champion from Baltimore also declared that Lewis "will have to kill me to get the belts."
All very entertaining, as far as post-Ali fight news conferences go.
But there was one star of this show, and that was the judge a former numbers runner from Cleveland convicted of manslaughter (he later received a governor's pardon in Ohio after serving five years) and the target of numerous federal investigations, all of which have failed to stop, or even slow down, the 70-year-old promoter.
Nobody appreciated the irony of Don King in the role as a judge more than Don King. "This is the greatest nation in the world, and I must say to you this judiciary system that we have is legendary, and I love it," King said. "For better or worse, I love this system of judiciary that we have. It's wonderful.
"I think it is a crowning achievement, a glory for me, that a humble African-American, a former numbers runner from Cleveland, Ohio … truth is stranger than fiction, sometimes you don't want to believe it," he said. "For me to be sitting in the judge's chair where I have been judged so many times judge not, yet ye be judged."
And then King cackled. He was laughing at those who tried to judge him, the ones who charged him with income tax evasion and failed to convict him. The ones who charged him with wire fraud and failed to convict him. The ones who went after him last year by putting IBF boss Bob Lee on trial for bribery, hoping the case would lead to Lee turning on King, an unindicted co-conspirator, and failed when Lee was acquitted on the bribery charges, convicted on a handful of lesser charges.
In the IBF case, two of King's rival promoters, Bob Arum and Cedric Kushner (Rahman's former promoter who lost him to King), both agreed to testify, admitting that they had paid bribes to Lee and his bagman, Doug Beavers. Both promoters wound up being heavily fined and suspended by several state athletic commissions for their admissions.
King? He admitted nothing. He testified against no one.
Yesterday, he was a judge.
"I believe in America," King said before he donned his robes. "They are always going to be at me, because it's not typical for them to have an African-American to be able to look you in the eye, man-to-man. We are boys until we are 50, and then we are uncles. Somehow we escape manhood. I have to be what I am a man. That means I must deal with America and its inequities and injustices, just as I would with its virtues. I like to promote the virtues. I'd rather be promoter of friendship, unanimity and zeal, and constricting negativity to its narrowest form. I'd rather be promoting the general welfare of our great nation of America."
Yesterday, people around City Hall wanted to debate who will win the second Rahman-Lewis fight.
That's easy. Don King.


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