Boxing promoter, Don King quickly hit pay dirt by convincing Muhammad Ali to fight in an exhibition for an African-American hospital in 1972. From there, he talked his way into the inner circles of top heavyweights Joe Frazier and George Foreman, who were set for a title bout in January 1973. King notoriously arrived at the fight with Frazier’s entourage, but switched allegiances after Foreman scored the decisive knockout.
King firmly established himself in the sport with the 1974 title bout between Ali and Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire. Although he possessed little formal experience as a promoter, King convinced Zaire dictator Mobutu Sésé Seko to provide the financial backing for the $5 million he promised each fighter, and organized an accompanying music festival that included James Brown and B.B. King. Despite delays and numerous attempts to move the fight back to the United States, the “Rumble in the Jungle” took place in late October and entered the annals of boxing lore with Ali’s win.
Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997, Don King remained one of the sport’s major players well into the following decade. In 2006, Forbes estimated he had promoted some 600 championship bouts and generated a net worth of $350 million over his career.
However, the dilution of boxing talent through numerous sanctioning bodies and the rise of mixed-martial arts as a mainstream sport combined to erode King’s power. He was forced to cut staff members at Don King Productions, and in 2011 he sold his massive estate in Manalapan, Florida. Additionally, he endured the loss of his longtime wife, Henrietta, around this time.
King remained active professionally, though he usually drew far more attention than the little-known fighters he was promoting. He occasionally surfaced in the news for other reasons, such as when he was rumored to be a speaker at the 2016 Republican National Convention.