August 23, 2012
By Kenneth Miller
LA Watts Times Columnist
[Editor’s note: Ken Miller is an award winning veteran journalist who spent 30 years writing for the L.A. Sentinel and has been a popular guest on local sports talk radio for several years. This is the first edition of his weekly sports column.]
My main man, boxing promoter Don King celebrated his 81st birthday on Monday August 20 and this week I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the friendship that I had with the ‘Only in America’ man.
While his famed spiked hair is losing its pointing crowns, and his gait has been slowed tremendously by aging legs that have to carrying a belly of pork barbeque and soul food, his mind is as sharp as ever.
I first met DK in 1992 and while sitting in his Wilshire Blvd. condominium the first video of the Rodney King beating was revealed.
Personally, I didn’t think it was such a big deal at the time because I had witnessed brothers getting clubbed by the po-po many times, but the wisdom of King saw that this was a watershed moment in African American history.
King stopped what he was doing and then contemplated what he should personally do.
“Man, I think I need to reach out to the brother and offer some help,” he thought.
“But if I did they would ridicule the f--- outta me and say that I am doing it for selfish promotional reasons.”
So, like many of us who were rendered powerless by the now infamous video, King did nothing, but hope and pray that justice would be served.
Eventually it was served, but Rodney King’s brush with the law ill afforded him with money and fame. He died broke earlier this year with his infamy intact.
During the same day King was being accused by then LSU basketball coach Dale Brown of tampering and trying to recruit a young man-child basketball star named Shaquille O’Neal.
Brown was threatening DK with lawsuits and his reputation would be scorned.
He pleaded with anyone in the room to put a stop to this. Just happened that I met Dale Brown through the recruitment of Crenshaw star John Williams and I was able to get the matter squashed.
Brown had promised me a scholarship to LSU if JW had went there, but he never fulfilled the promise. Like most college basketball coaches: worthless as a used car salesman.
In subsequent years I took my first trip out of the U.S. courtesy of DK when he brought me to Mexico to witness the epic Julio Ceasar Chavez in Azteca Stadium in front of 132,000.
There would be other moments like when I brought him Tony Tucker after he had been out of the ring and addicted to drugs for more than two years and DK gave him three shots at the heavyweight world title of which he won zero.
Then there were the Tyson times when the dough was really rolling, and even during the most difficult time of my life DK stood up for me.
I remember a time when he was almost brought down to tears when the press ridiculed him so bad.
“I have a family and I have kids and grandchildren! Don’t they give a damn?”
Most people reflect on many of the negative aspects of DK’s professional and public persona, but get closer and there is a soft and cuddly side to him.
Now, I am not going to tell you that he doesn’t love money.
But, he lost close to a million in profits when a local street agent ran off with a deal he made for former Clippers bum Benoit Benjamin.
He could have represented both Venus and Serena Williams, but turned it down and instead quietly supported the family without reservation.
DK bought the tennis-playing girls their first soul food meal from Maes on Crenshaw Blvd back in the day.
The first clothes they wore in a public tennis match were oversized DK T-shirts and black tennis skirts he bought.
Now, the headquarters at DKP is quiet on most days. The only buzz in the office is his.
His stable of fighters has diminished to a fraction of a few.
The bold face 72 pt. font headlines, a distant memory.
A year ago, he lost his best friend when his wife Henrietta passed.
She was the only person who could ever check him, and she might be the only person that he fully ever respected.
He took a jab at Mayweather to get back on top of the boxing game, but haters be damned he came up short.
Far from finished, but also far from his humble beginnings and mega paydays of years gone by.
I spoke with DK on his birthday and sang a song to him. We laughed and joked about the good ol days and remembered some sad ones.
His beak just as sharp as yester-year.
He was on his way to Ohio to visit the gravesite of his wife.
“I’m going to have a talk with Henri,” he said.
Just like it used to be, but this time his best friend can only listen…