P.T. Barnum has nothing on Don King. I have been covering the 81-year-old King since 1979, and no matter what you may think of him as a person, he never fails to make sure whatever he is promoting gets the biggest, brightest spotlight possible.
The prefight hype is kicking into high gear as 48-year-old Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins faces the undefeated IBF light-heavyweight champion, 31-year-old Tavoris "Thunder" Cloud, in hopes of breaking his own record as the oldest champion in boxing history.
The fight will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, March 9th and will be broadcast on HBO World Championship Boxing.
This is more than just another fight for King. He is promoting this as a historic sporting event. We spoke during a conference call this week, and it was classic King in full promotional mode.
JW: What are your thoughts on Bernard Hopkins?
King: I have nothing but the greatest respect for Bernard. I have known him since he was 20 or 21, and he is one of the smartest and best fighters ever to step into the ring. But Saturday night in Brooklyn he will lose to Tavoris "Thunder" Cloud, who is the hardest puncher and most aggressive fighter I have seen since Mike Tyson."
JW: Does this fight remind you of any other fights you have promoted?
King: Yes, you can parallel, when I made the George Foreman and Muhammad Ali fight (the Rumble in the Jungle) the same thing was there.
George Foreman told me that if he beat the old man he says he’s not going to get no credit for it. If he hurts him he said therefore he would be condemned because everybody loved Muhammad Ali. Do you know what I mean?
And then at the same token, he was the most physically fit, the most ready-made heavyweight, one of the greatest fighters of all time, George Foreman waved the American flag when he won Olympic gold, and it was a fabulous situation.
So now you’ve got, again, the reversal this time with the Tavoris crowd being the George Foreman, do you know what I mean, and George Foreman was supposed to win and he didn’t, but the old man, Ali, that everybody was looking apprehensively at, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see, that young man revolutionized not only the sport of boxing but he revolutionized what it means to stand for something. If you don’t stand for nothing, you don’t live for nothing.
So you’ve got a juxtapose here, where now it’s up to Tavoris Cloud, which I think he will acquit himself quite admirably, I think he will break through, so the public worldwide globally will recognize Tavoris Cloud as what Tavoris Cloud is, a tough individual dedicated and committed to excellence, and with a fighter that has the veteran experience of a Bernard Hopkins, who is going to be standing there bringing to him an illustrious career of dedication and commitment, and proven, tried, tested and proven to be one of the great athletes of our time, a future Hall of Famer, he will be there.
And when he falls he won’t fall with disgrace, something undignified, he will fall with great glory. It will be, hey, this guy did his job, he came, he saw, he conquered, and now he’s being conquered, and as such by one that is greater than he at this particular time.
So I’m looking forward to the fight myself. I’m excited. I’m going to be in awe as I watch every move and gesticulation of these fighters. I know they can’t call time out and send in a substitute. I know if they run out of gas there ain’t no petrol station in sight, but you’ve got to fight, so Brooklyn and the world get ready. The Barclays Center will be the site of history in the making.
JW: Hopkins says he wants to put you out of business. Your response?
King: I love Bernard. He is doing a great job of promoting and I just want to say that he’s not a nemesis to me. He’s a wonderful fighter, a great fighter, and he’s not going to be capturing a crown of glory when Tavoris knocks him out.
That’s the difference. He won't be putting me out of business that is just hyping the fight. Both me and Bernard will be in the boxing business for a long time after this fight. A fight that Tavoris "Thunder" Could will win Saturday night in Brooklyn."
All quotes were obtained first hand during a conference call with Don King hosted by HBO.