- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

As I have said before, Don King could sell snowballs to Eskimos, then charge them again for the water when the snowballs melt. He has, as they say in the sales business, the gift of gab.

But sometimes, when gab doesn’t work, King offers another gift — intimidation.

And according to a lawsuit filed by Lennox Lewis in New York last week, King used that second gift in his lengthy campaign to try to get Mike Tyson to drop his $100million lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial in September.

According to the lawsuit filed by Lewis, King threatened the life of Jeff Wald, an adviser of Tyson’s, as part of King’s effort to keep Tyson from signing a contract to fight Lewis. King, who Tyson claimed stole millions from him during a previous partnership, wanted Tyson to agree to a settlement — believed to be about $20million — and then sign another contract with the promoter.

Wald works with another Tyson adviser, Shelly Finkel — Finkel once told me that I “should be shot” for writing something about him and Tyson — and according to the lawsuit, they were involved in negotiations for Lewis for a rematch with Tyson.

After Tyson, the former two-time heavyweight champion, walked through his last opponent, canvas-diver Clifford Etienne, he said he had no interest in fighting Lewis next. Perhaps he knew he would take another beating. It made sense from a business standpoint for Tyson to fight Lewis again. No one ever knows for sure whether a Tyson fight will be his last. Another fight with Lewis is the best way to squeeze a big payday out of Tyson and the people who have a piece of the Tyson money machine know it.

According to the lawsuit, King devised a plan that hid Tyson in a New York hotel last month, and he bribed a female friend of Tyson’s to keep him there. That kept Tyson from going to Los Angeles to sign a deal to fight a stiff on the June 21 Lewis-Kirk Johnson card at the Staples Center. That deal would have led to Lewis-Tyson II in the fall.

King did not return a call to respond to the accusations, which might seem like a surprise to the politicians and corporate leaders who willingly rub shoulders and do business with the promoter. But if you know King and his past, you know he has no problem turning that smile into a snarl.

Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes is one of King’s former fighters, and he has documented King’s gift of intimidation. In his autobiography, “Larry Holmes: Against the Odds,” Holmes wrote about a threat he once received from King. Before he was champion, Holmes considered an offer from rival promoter Bob Arum. When Holmes told King he was going to talk to Arum, he said in the book, “I never saw King’s face the way it got, like he was in pain. His eyes turned cold and empty. He said, real quietly, ‘If you do, I’ll have your legs broke.’ I didn’t take that as an idle threat.”

Holmes took it serious because he knew King’s past. King killed two men — shooting one who tried to rob one of his gambling establishments back in Cleveland and beating the other to death because he owed King money. The first one was declared justifiable homicide. The second resulted in a manslaughter conviction (originally, a jury convicted King on second-degree murder, with life in prison, but a judge reduced the conviction to manslaughter and a five-year sentence).

This was more than 30 years ago, though, and you would think the more distance King put between himself and his Cleveland street days, the less likely he would be willing to revert to his old ways. But he has the air of a desperate man as this Tyson lawsuit approaches. If cornered, King can call on that street justice again.

An interesting sidelight to all this is the ongoing fight between King and Lewis, the reigning World Boxing Council title holder and the recognized heavyweight champion (no matter what paper title Roy Jones has). King has been trying to get Lewis under contract for years, and the champion has played the promoter. He lets King get close and teases the promoter. He let King buy him a car as a gift. He took $1million from King for giving up one of the heavyweight belts, the International Boxing Federation. Lewis really didn’t need and nor did he want any part of fighting mandatory challenger Chris Byrd. Byrd went on to win the IBF title in a match against Evander Holyfield, but everyone knows who the real heavyweight champion is.

Instead of signing a contract with King, as many believed Lewis was about to do last November, the champ is suing the promoter for $385million. Lewis has won 40 fights, but his greatest victory, when all is said and done, may be the one over the promoter whose gifts were never good enough to trick or terrorize him.


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