'Lynched' by media, King vents his anger

November 06, 1991|By Robert Seltzer | Robert Seltzer,Knight-Ridder

Don King, calling his treatment by the media a "high-noon lynching," yesterday condemned two recent works of journalism that paint a negative picture of the boxing promoter.

King labeled the two pieces -- a PBS documentary that aired last night and an article in Sports Illustrated that hit the stands last Thursday -- examples of "muckraking, yellow journalism."

In a rambling, emotional attack that lasted an hour before the media got a chance to ask questions, King denied that he has ties with the Mafia, as both the documentary and the article allege.

"Let me categorically deny any association with the mob," he said during a news conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York. "The Mafia rules by intimidation and fear. If you don't do what they want you to do, you end up in the river with a cement overcoat or slumped over the wheel of a car with a bullet in your head . . . And yet people vilify me constantly. If I was with the Mafia, do you think they would allow such things to happen to me?"

King stopped short of saying that he would file lawsuits against Jack Newfield, who researched and narrated the documentary, and Joseph Spinelli, the inspector general for the state of New York, who wrote the magazine article.

"My lawyers will tell me what I can and cannot do," King said.

King likened his situation to that of Judge Clarence Thomas, who faced charges of sexual harassment before winning confirmation to the Supreme Court last month.

"Every black man who is a success has to be taken down another rung on the ladder," he said.

King said the Spinelli article resulted after the promoter severed his ties earlier this year with HBO, the cable network that regularly televised cards promoted by King.

Both HBO and Sports Illustrated are part of the Time Warner empire, and King said the article was an attempt by the corporation to punish him for starting his own boxing telecasts.

"After I left HBO, I was told by a high, high executive that I better watch my back 24 hours a day," King said, although he declined to name the official who allegedly made that threat.

"We're not going to dignify that with a response," said Lou DiBella, a vice president with TVKO, the pay-per-view network that also is owned by Time Warner.

King addressed other allegations in both the documentary and the article:

* The promoter denied that he had conducted a dinner meeting with New York Mafia figure John Gotti, a meeting that is described in the magazine piece.

"The only time I've seen John Gotti is on television," King said. "They got their information from an informant. I don't know who the informant was. It must have been Ray Charles."

* He said he never "shorted" Muhammad Ali $1 million from his third match with Joe Frazier, on Oct. 1, 1975, as Newfield alleges in the PBS work.

"Ali had one of the most astute managers in the world, Herbert Muhammad," King said. "I give him all the credit in the world, but he was a hard man to deal with. He would not have allowed me to take $1 million from Ali."

* He denied that he withheld money owed to former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon, an allegation made by both Newfield and Spinelli.

"I gave Witherspoon everything he had coming and more," he said. "Not less. More."

One person conspicuously absent from the news conference was Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion who is promoted by King.

Tyson, under indictment on charges that he raped an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant last summer in Indianapolis, pulled out of his bout with undisputed champion Evander Holyfield, which had been set for this Friday, because of a rib injury.

Ever since Tyson disclosed his injury about three weeks ago, speculation has emerged that the ex-titleholder has broken his association with King.

"Mike is with Don 100 percent," said John Horne, a member of the Tyson camp. "He's not here because he's resting his injury."

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