Joe Bruno’s Article For – Re: Boxing Promoter Don King

The King and I

By Joe Bruno on February 14, 2014

 After almost four decades of hearing about Don King’s poor victims in boxing, it’s time to tell about someone who finally got over on the “Electric Hair Wonder” and lived to tell about it. His name is Little Old Me.

In the winter of 1979, I was hired by The News World in New York City (owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who now owns The Washington Times) to do a full page of boxing every week on the News World’s Sport’s Monday section. This daily newspaper only had a circulation of 75,000 a day, a mere pittance compared to the New York Times’ one million a day circulation.

So, the editors of The News World decided to do something the Times would never do to grab part of the Gray Old Lady’s mostly liberal readership, and my boxing page fired their first salvo. At the time, no other daily paper in New York City employed a full-time boxing writer, and the Monday boxing page was an immediate success. So much so, advertisers were lining up to take ads to appear on the boxing page.

Bob Arum placed the first ad, publicizing his new Tuesday Night Boxing fight card on ESPN. Not to be outdone by his arch enemy, Don King decided he wanted a piece of the action too, but I didn’t realize that piece included a piece of me.

King took a ridiculously bold and brazen ad that ran the full top of my boxing page. The ad consisted of a silhouetted drawing of a parade led by a man with tall hair waving the American Flag. The headline over the parade read: “Don King’s American Dream.” And in small letters under the drawing was, “By Joe Bruno.”

I almost swallowed my Underwood when I saw the ad the first week. Although it didn’t explicitly say so, it certainly inferred that I now worked for Don King.

I ran to the publisher of the News World, a Moonie, who before he was publisher used to clean the News World’s toilets, and demanded that the word “advertisement” be placed between the ad and my name, to removed me from any connection to King, other than the fact that he advertised on my page. The publisher agreed, and for one week “advertisement” did appear where I demanded that it did.

The second week all hell broke loose.

The story I heard was King personally called the paper and said he would not pay the second and last installment of his fee for 52 (one year) weekly ads, if the word “advertisement” was not removed immediately. He had paid a reported ten grand up front, and still owed another forty grand to the newspaper. The ad executive (not a Moonie), who sold King the ad, then informed me that if I didn’t like the arrangement he had made with King, I could certainly seek employment elsewhere.

So for the next four weeks, I ate crow, and believe me it did not taste like chicken.

Then King, as per the agreement, coughed up the final forty grand.

I’d love to say it was my idea, but the truth is the great sports columnist Dick Young taught me a way to get even with Don King, who had only four years earlier been released after seven years in jail for manslaughter. (King was later pardoned by outgoing Governor George Rhodes, in an act of government that stunk worse than the Fulton Fish Market).

Dick Young asked me, “Has your paper told you to write only nice things about Don King?”

I said, “No, but let me make sure anyway.”

I went back to the publisher, who was now as happy as a pig in shit because he had fifty grand of King’s cash, and asked point blank, “Can I write anything I want about Don King under Don King’s American Dream?’”

The Moonie bastard said, “Joe, we got King’s money. Write what you want.”

And so I did.

So, for the next three weeks, I dug up every nasty item I could find on King, and believe me there were plenty, and I displayed them for all to see under “Don King’s American Dream.”

I started with items like: “With his fists and his feet, Don King brutally beat Samuel Garrett to death in Cleveland in 1966 because Garrett couldn’t pay King the $500 he owed King on a usurious loan. King spent the next seven years in jail after his conviction for manslaughter.” “King did this. King did that. King screwed this fighter. King screwed that fighter. King……. blah, blah, blah, blah…….”

Well, you get the message, and so did Don King.

“Don King’s American Dream” became “Don King’s Nightmare,” and after three weeks of getting abused under his own ad, King withdrew “Don King’s American Dream” after the ad ran only six weeks, even though King had already paid for an entire 52 weeks.

So, to paraphrase what Claude Rains told Bogart at the end of Casablanca, it became the start of a long and unrewarding relationship for the King and I.

Joe Bruno is the author of 17 books, including “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volumes 1-5” and “Whitey Bulger – The Biggest Rat.” Joe Bruno’s Amazon Author Page can here seen here. Also visit his blog, “Joe Bruno on the Mob.”


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