- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

When reporters questioned heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman about the lawsuits he faced after signing a contract with promoter Don King, Rahman said he wasn't concerned about the legal ramifications.
"I'll let Don handle all of that," Rahman said, smiling. "I know he can handle that."
King will handle that and more today in federal court in New York, where two lawsuits connected to his signing of Rahman last month will be heard.
Cedric Kushner, Rahman's former promoter, sued King for interference, claiming Kushner still has a valid promotional contract with Rahman. Lennox Lewis, the former champion who was knocked out by Rahman in April in South Africa, filed suit against Rahman. Lewis charges that the newly crowned champion failed to live up to a rematch clause in the contract he signed to fight Lewis.
The outcome of today's hearings could determine whether Rahman, the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation title holder, will make his first defense for King against David Izon on the undercard of an Aug. 4 show in Beijing. That card features World Boxing Association champion John Ruiz defending his belt against Evander Holyfield.
One or both of the cases could be settled by today, or they could go to trial. But an examination of King's history with the law in both criminal and civil actions justifies Rahman's confidence in him.
Mob boss John Gotti was nicknamed the "Teflon Don," but it is King who should wear that crown. His ability to win in courtrooms and backrooms is the stuff of boxing legend. King, 69, has shown an uncanny ability to create waves and waves of legal proceedings, only to calm the waters through a combination of unmatched tenacity, brazenness and good fortune.
"He is the master," one boxing network official said in grudging admiration. "He can work the system like nobody else."
King calls his lawyers "my warriors," but his victories are as much a testament to his skill in outmaneuvering his opposition and his ability to judge human nature as it is to the skill of his lawyers.
"You create havoc in the east and strike in the west," King said, quoting Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu on the art of war after King beat out Home Box Office and Showtime to sign Rahman.
Al Capone was put in jail for income tax evasion but not King. When King was acquitted of the same charge in 1986, the flamboyant promoter showed his appreciation by taking the members of the jury who lined up for autographs after the trial on an all-expenses-paid trip to London to see Frank Bruno fight heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon.
"I took them all over to London," King told reporters. "They had sightseeing tours and big dinners."
Witherspoon was one of the few fighters ripped off by King to take him to court successfully, eventually winning a $900,000 judgment.
One year later, Witherspoon's telephone had been disconnected because he couldn't pay the bill, and King was still boxing's top promoter.
Most fighters never get as far as Witherspoon. They often settle for far less than what they signed for, and King's reputation for cheating fighters is so much a part of boxing lore that King recently used it as an advertisement for his promotional skills.
"Larry Holmes said, 'I make more money with Don King stealing from me than 100 percent from other promoters,' " King said last month at a news conference to announce his Beijing card.
The jury in King's income tax trial wasn't the only one treated to a trip.
In 1998, prosecutors charged that King had cheated Lloyd's of London out of $350,000 in training expenses for a scheduled Julio Cesar Chavez fight in 1991 that was canceled. King was acquitted of insurance fraud, and he took the jury members and their families to the Bahamas and then to Atlanta to watch heavyweight champion Holyfield fight Vaughn Bean.
King reportedly gave them envelopes of money for shopping on the islands, and when one juror wanted to go fishing, King bellowed, "Get this man a boat." The man soon was fishing from a yacht.
"I'm doing this as a gesture of those who lived the process," King told reporters at the Holyfield-Bean fight. "You've got to show the people appreciation for the process."
No one has a greater appreciation for the process than King, dating back to the days he was in the numbers racket in Cleveland in the 1950s. In December 1954, King shot and killed one of three men trying to rob one of his gambling houses. Prosecutors determined King was defending himself and declared the death a "justifiable homicide."
King wasn't as fortunate in 1966, when he beat to death a man who owed him money on the streets of Cleveland. King was convicted of second-degree murder and faced life in prison. But he ultimately prevailed against the system again: A judge inexplicably changed the conviction from murder to manslaughter, and King was out of jail in 3 1/2 years. Later, he would receive a pardon from Ohio governor James Rhodes.
King has survived lawsuits, scandals, legislation, three criminal trials and government investigations.
He survived the scandal and investigation surrounding an ABC-TV heavyweight tournament he promoted in 1977, when it was discovered that fighters' records had been falsified.
He survived an FBI probe that uncovered evidence of payoffs and other corruption, including an association with mob figures like Gotti and Michael Franzese. When King was questioned during a 1992 Senate investigation about his Gotti connection, King took the Fifth Amendment.
That probe grew into the "Crown Royal" investigation, an FBI sting operation that created a promotional firm to infiltrate boxing. The sting fizzled, but information gained in the investigation was used in a 1984 indictment on tax fraud and conspiracy against King and a vice president of Don King Promotions, Constance Harper. She was convicted. King was acquitted.
King has been successful in the courts of other countries, as well. In March 1998, an British court ruled that King was entitled to half of the profits that resulted from a partnership agreement between King and British promoter Frank Warren, an agreement Warren tried to dissolve. That award was believed to be worth $12 million to King.
Muhammad Ali sued King after his 1980 fight with Holmes, claiming King shortchanged his purse by $1.2 million. He later settled for $50,000.
It appeared King was finished after Mike Tyson was upset by Buster Douglas in February 1990 in Tokyo. King was exposed publicly for his failed attempt to get WBC president Jose Suliaman to overturn the outcome of the fight, claiming the referee long-counted Douglas when Tyson put him down earlier in the fight.
But King even managed to come out of that with a piece of the pie: He had options on Douglas' future fights. King wanted Douglas to fight Tyson immediately in a rematch. Douglas wanted to fight Holyfield and sued King, claiming he had been coerced into signing a contract with a rematch clause. (A similar claim is at the center of Lewis' lawsuit against Rahman and is one of main things last year's federal Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act is supposed to guard against.) Douglas' manager wound up paying King $4.5 million to settle before the trial ended, and an out-of-shape Douglas fought and lost to Holyfield.
Six years later, King would be promoting Holyfield as the heavyweight champion of the world.
Tyson was convicted of rape in July 1991 and served three years of a six-year sentence in an Indiana prison. That left King out of the heavyweight picture. As Tyson's release neared, reports said the former champion, who converted to Islam in prison, would leave King and sign with Muslim promoters. But King prevailed again: Tyson declared that King would remain his promoter. "Don is the greatest promoter in the world," Tyson said.
Tyson has a different opinion today.
Tyson's boxing license was revoked by the Nevada Athletic Commission after his second fight with Holyfield, the June 1997 debacle in which Tyson was disqualified for biting off pieces of Holyfield's ear.
When Tyson did get his license restored in 1998, he didn't come back to King. He instead joined manager Shelly Finkel Holyfield's former manager and another promoter, America Presents. Tyson also filed a $100 million lawsuit against King, charging that the promoter had stolen money from him.
That lawsuit may never see a courtroom. Some observers believe that part of King's strategy in signing Rahman was to put himself in a position to force Tyson to drop his suit.
Tyson is the WBC's No. 1 mandatory challenger. Rahman holds both the WBC and IBF titles, and he must fight Tyson by November or risk having the WBC title stripped. Tyson has vowed never to do business with King again. However, if he wants to fight Rahman, he likely will have to.
A Rahman-Tyson fight likely will go to a purse bid, which means anyone can submit a sealed bid to promote the fight. King will try and likely succeed in outbidding everyone else. Under purse bid rules, the challenger in this case, Tyson would get 25 percent of any purse, far less than Tyson would receive under normal circumstances. However, if the lawsuit against King is dropped, the negotiations for Rahman-Tyson likely would be much smoother and much more lucrative for Tyson.
That difference certainly wouldn't be $100 million. But it would be money in hand for Tyson, who would not have to go to court King's ring and risk not getting anything. King understands the concept of money in hand well. He has banked on it time and again, from the first major fight that launched his career to his signing of Rahman.
King reportedly closed the deal with Rahman by delivering a duffel bag containing $500,000 cash to his New York hotel room May 11 as part of a $5 million signing bonus. Rahman reportedly was driven to Baltimore that morning in a limousine with the bag of money, put it in a bank and came back to New York.
Longtime boxing publicist Bill Caplan has seen King operate that way in the past. Caplan was there at the start, when King made his name by putting together the "Rumble in the Jungle" George Foreman vs. Ali in Zaire in 1974.
Each fighter received $5 million an unheard sum at the time because King got the dictator of Zaire to put up the money for the fight. But he had nothing when he got Foreman to sign for the fight except cash.
"He gave George $5,000 in cash and a promise for the rest on paper," said Caplan, who was Foreman's publicist. "George told me that the $5,000 meant more to him than that paper. That's the way King has always operated."
Since the Rahman signing, another King move has spawned speculation and conspiracy theories.
Rahman was supposed to fight former sparring partner Brian Nielsen on King's Beijing card in August. Shortly after the announcement, Nielsen was replaced by Izon a much tougher opponent. King said Rahman did not want such an easy opponent for his first defense, but others suspect King engineered the move to dispose of Rahman after one fight.
King signed Izon to a six-fight deal for an undisclosed amount. That amount is likely far less than the commitment King has made to Rahman for his future fights: $15 million against WBA title holder Ruiz (another King fighter), $20 million for a rematch with Lewis, and $30 million for a bout against Tyson. The prize for King is control of all three recognized heavyweight titles not Rahman. It really doesn't matter who holds the belts Izon or Rahman to King.
Another theory holds that the Izon signing was another attempt to make life difficult for Tyson. Izon was slated as Tyson's next opponent, originally for June 1 at MCI Center. That fight was canceled when it appeared Tyson might get a shot at Rahman. After Rahman signed with King, Tyson's management scrambled to put together another Tyson-Izon fight. That scramble ended when King signed Izon. Now Tyson, who hasn't fought since his two rounds against Andrew Golota in October, is without an opponent that his network, Showtime, will accept.
King took a jab at Tyson at the news conference to announce the China card. "He's fought what, seven times for a total of $40 million?" King said. "Something is wrong with this picture. He fights for me, I get him $30 million a fight."
King then delivered his mantra, the one he delivers each time he beats the system. "I'm the 'Only in America' man, the land of the greatest opportunities in the world," he said.
If King acts like a man who is invincible, perhaps it is understandable considering the number of legal bullets he has dodged.
Last year, IBF founder Robert W. Lee went on trial on 33 counts of bribery, conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and other charges in a federal investigation that uncovered payoffs for ranking fighters.
King was an unindicted co-conspirator and the probe's main target. Tapes from the primary government informant, IBF ratings chairman Doug Beavers, detailed payoffs Beavers testified were for King. The FBI raided King's West Palm Beach, Fla., offices and took thousands of documents.
Lee was acquitted of all but six charges, including the bribery charges killing the prosecution's chance to go after King.
King's rival promoters Kushner and Bob Arum cooperated with the government and testified about their own bribery payments. Arum testified that he made a $100,000 payoff to the IBF to sanction a heavyweight title fight in 1995. Kushner testified he made a number of payoffs to the IBF for his fighters.
Arum and Kushner were each fined and and suspended by several states, including by the influential Nevada Athletic Commission.
What happened to King, the only promoter who did not cooperate with prosecutors? Nothing.
That is why Rahman was smiling about the court proceedings that begin today though the only one likely to come out of this with his smile intact is Mr. Only in America.

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