King looking to impress Seminole Tribe

By George Willis


King looking to impress Seminole Tribe

When Don King hosted a press conference in New York recently to announce the rematch between Samuel Peter and James Toney, the loquacious promoter spent most of the afternoon talking about his new association with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that owns the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., where the heavyweight fight will be held on Jan. 6.

"The natural forces of the universe are combining to bring forth great sports and entertainment events in the sunshine state of Florida," King told me recently. "The Seminole Indians and myself are coming together for this event, hopefully we'll be able to come together for a long and good future."

Having "a long and good future" with the Seminoles appears more important to King than who wins the fight.  He shares promotional rights to Toney with Dan Goossen and has an interest in Peter, having bought 50 percent of Dino Duva's company. Either way, King wins on Jan. 6. Getting tight with the Seminoles and their leaders Mitchell Cypress and David Cypress is the higher priority.


You might have read in the business pages recently the Seminole Tribe recently agreed to buy the Hard Rock Café chain of restaurants and casinos for $965 million. The deal includes 124 cafes, six hotels and two casinos. The Seminoles will also acquire the collection of memorabilia, including guitars owned by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton.

The deal initially did not include the popular Las Vegas property, which was in the process of being purchased by The Morgans Hotel chain for $770 million.  But that deal could fall through, opening the door for the Seminoles to buy the Hard Rock casino in Las Vegas as well.

The Seminoles, who according to reports derive more than 90 percent of their income from gambling operations, have been staging boxing events at their Hollywood, Fla., property since its opening in 2004, and King would like nothing better than to prove "a long and good future" with the "Only in America" promoter would be financially beneficial to both parties.

That's why King is determined to make Jan. 6 an impressive event. "It's going to be an extravaganza," he said. "From the Rumble in the Jungle to the Thrilla in Manilla to Redemption at the Seminole Las Vegas style."

The winner of the Toney-Peter II is mandated to meet Oleg Maskaev for his WBC heavyweight championship. But King has built his legendary career by making his promotions about more than just two men fighting in the ring.

He'll always attach some historical significance to a fight or its location. Then he'll galvanize grass roots support by making the local janitor, the radio deejay, the mayor all the way up the governor feel like they are part of the attraction. Add the glitter of ringside celebrities and it becomes not just an event, but happening.  "From the streets to the suites," King said.

He's following a similar script for Jan. 6. King is busy formulating an impressive guest list that includes Jesse Jackson, Flavor Flav, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Bruce Willis, and Chris Rock.

And how's this for another hook.  King wants to highlight the historical injustices shared between African-Americans and Native Americans, which is why members of the civil rights movement like Jesse Jackson, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Joseph Lowery will also be invited to attend.

"We're the only two classes of people who have ever been chased through swamps and everglades by people with dogs and guns and rifles," King said. "Both of us are fighting for a better America. We both understand the shortcomings of our great nation and we're trying to overcome what happened 200 and 300 years ago and what's happening today.  So we're going to have a great, great get together and talk about how we can make America better and the same time be entertained both aesthetically and spiritually."

Funny, I thought the fight boiled down to whether Toney will be in better condition for this fight now that he's working with Tae Bo guru Billy Blanks and whether Peter can land enough power punches control the fight.

King, however, sees a much bigger picture. The Seminole Tribe will be looking to expand its boxing interest now that it has more hotels and casinos.  King would like nothing better than be their promoter of choice for a "long and good future."

Meanwhile, King will join Duva and Goossen in making sure the Jan. 6 winner get his shot at the WBC title. Maskaev wants a unification fight with IBF title-holder Wladimir Klitschko and the feeling is mutual. A date is tentatively set for April 21 and the site could be in Moscow.  "It will be the biggest heavyweight fight we've seen in a long time," Maskaev's promoter Dennis Rappaport said of Maskaev-Klitschko.

For Maskaev-Klitschko to happen in April, the WBC must give its approval, which is something King isn't about to let happen. "I would definitely be against that," he said. "The whole (Toney-Peter) card is predicated on the winner fighting Oleg Maskaev for the title."

King also promotes Ray Austin, who is the mandatory challenger to Klitschko's title. "I just want Ray Austin to get his just desserts," King said. "All of these guys at the networks say the titles don't mean anything, but they only pick the guys that have the titles. The hypocrisy is running rampant. Austin must have his day in the ring. When he gets his day in the ring I'm satisfied because I think he's going to knockout (Klitschko)."


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