Boxing promoter Don King considering holding bout in Baltimore

August 25, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

With hopes of building a new Baltimore Arena, City Council members welcomed yesterday flamboyant boxing promoter Don King to talk about possibly holding a major fight here.

King, one of America's most recognized celebrities with his trademark hairdo, stood next to Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and said Baltimore could be a possible venue for King's business enterprises, including investing in local businesses.

The city wants to tear down the 36-year-old Baltimore Arena -- formerly known as the Civic Center -- at Baltimore and Howard streets to build a new facility that could spur downtown rejuvenation. Although no formal plan or timetable has been established, a new arena would add to the economic development ignited by new baseball and football stadiums at Camden Yards, Bell said.

King, who turned 67 last week, said he would be interested in holding a giant boxing bout here for a different reason: Baltimore's African-American history.

"I'm especially fond of this town because Frederick Douglass escaped from this town," King said. "And Frederick Douglass is my hero."

King, who has handled heavyweight champions from Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson, recently established ties to the city through local attorney William "Billy" H. Murphy Jr.

Last month, Murphy represented King when he was acquitted of nine counts of wire fraud before a federal jury in New York. For the second time, King was tried on a charge of attempting to defraud a Lloyd's of London insurance syndicate of $350,000 after a Julio Cesar Chavez bout was canceled.

Murphy, who was recommended to King by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, said King's reputation has been wrongly harmed by the federal government's attempts to convict him.

Many Americans, Murphy said, are unaware of King's philanthropy. Last year, he gave $15 million to African-American charities, Murphy said. "I thought that when I met Don King, I was getting a client," Murphy said. "But I got a friend."

King's appearance encouraged Vincent Pettway, the 32-year-old Baltimore welterweight contender. If the city is successful in courting King, Pettway said, he could soon be fighting for the championship in Baltimore.

"Don King is the No. 1 guy in the business, and coming to Baltimore means a great deal," Pettway said. "That he's looking possibly to put a big title fight here in Baltimore means a lot to me because I have fans and friends all over town, and I think it means that much more to the city as well."

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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