What Donald Trump learned from Don King

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What Donald Trump learned from Don King

Trump’s friendship with King has survived some attempts by Republicans to distance them.

For more than three decades, boxing promoter Don King and Donald Trump have shared a long-standing friendship and some defining superficial similarities: an unmistakable hairstyle and a swagger that became a kind of superpower, a history of troubled creditors and an unwavering conviction. that more is more.

“Putting some gas in the tank,” King, 92, said recently at a South Florida casino bistro, before eating a New York steak, three scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages at 4 p.m. , “hot cakes”, grits, cranberry juice, coffee (“black like me”), with agave honey and African hot sauce that I brought from home.

His waiter asked him if anything was missing. “Yes,” said King, “we’re going to need more butter.”

As much as any other figure in Trump’s grandiose, riotous public life, King served as a model for what Trump considered success for a black man in America. For the former president, King was both ally and example, half a generation older and an avatar of unrepentant excess and street bravado during Trump’s glory days in New York in the 1980s.

If the famed promoter may seem transported from another era—when the boxing business was king, when King was the boxing business, when some quarrels were settled outside the ring and the legal system—this was the era when much of the Trump’s world seems to have merged into one worldview.

“He was never someone who belonged to the ruling class and was proud of it,” Trump said in a statement sent by his presidential campaign, in which he recognized King as “a champion and fighter like few others.” “He made money when others lost money and he has done so for a long time. He is the best! “.

In a 90-minute interview, King claimed the two had learned a lot from each other, reinforcing each other’s professional instincts while promoting fights under the banner of Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In their prime, King and Trump made money together, rose to prominence, and overcame litigation together.

“Donald Trump was a young man who wanted to be himself,” King said. “In business, hyperbole works because you know you’re not breaking any laws. You’re overreacting. You know what I mean? You are promoting. You’re making it more exciting.”

The Reverend Al Sharpton explained it in fewer words. “If Donald Trump had been born black,” he said, “he would have been Don King.”

Now, with some polls showing Trump making modest but perhaps significant gains among black voters — causing alarm among Democrats as President Joe Biden struggles to strengthen his position — King remains a staunch supporter who understands the former president as few can do it.

King ignores Trump’s long history of racist bullying and values ​​his transactional stance on politics and business as the wisdom gained from a fellow traveler whom King helped show the way.

Before Trump promised to “make America great again,” King shouted “only in America!” to any camera that was placed in front of him.

Before Trump heard thunderous cheers at sold-out cage matches, endearing him to a masculinity-heavy segment of his base, he was front row with King to see Mike Tyson, who later accused King of scam him.

If the famous promoter can seem transported from another era, this was the era in which much of Trump’s world seems to have coalesced into one worldview.

Before Trump was a crook who insisted the system was rigged, King was one too.

“They treat Trump like a black man,” said King, who was imprisoned more than half a century ago after beating an associate to death over a debt, repeating some of Trump’s conspiracy theories about his trial over paying money to change of silence in New York. “He is guilty until proven innocent.”

King, though somewhat diminished by age, remains, like Trump, very much the person he was when they met, decked out in a dazzling denim jacket emblazoned with his own face and paying the lunch bill with a thick wad of cash. of one hundred dollars tied with a rubber band.

With a house in Boca Raton, Florida, an office nearby and a group of relatives and associates who help him keep up appearances, King continues to promote fights in the area, with often fading or second-rate boxers and his own sincere promises. that each fight is an unprecedented spectacle.

“The excitement is in the air!” he said this month from his ringside perch at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, midway through a mid-range but entertaining card sponsored by a printing company and two strip clubs. “A spectacular event!”

King remains a traveling attraction for boxing fans who encounter him, whether he walks with the help of his walker through the casino or gets around in his wheelchair with the help of a grandson.

Strangers approach him, attentive to his bouffant, crown-shaped hair — “Don King, what’s up, brother!” “Only in the United States!” — and he poses with his followers, who clench their fists for the camera but They do not properly interact with him, as if they were next to a wax statue of the man.

With those who manage to get him to talk, King does not hold back, peppering an interview with allusions to Socrates, Plato, Shakespeare (“the bard of Avon!”), Muhammad Ali (“the greatest of all time!”), Johnnie Cochran (“the glove doesn’t fit!”), the O’Jays, Schopenhauer, himself… and he pointedly refutes his many critics over the years.

But Trump’s friendship with King has survived some attempts by Republicans to distance them.

When Trump pushed to have King speak at his candidacy convention in 2016, party officials said Republicans couldn’t risk associating with someone who had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Two months later, King managed to get a microphone to talk about Trump, when he accompanied the candidate to a church in Ohio.

“We need Donald Trump,” King said at the time, “especially people of color.”

Remembering advice he had once given to Michael Jackson, King vowed that day to soften his anecdote to avoid saying “the N-word.” Fourteen seconds later, he said it.

“Ahhhhh,” Trump said warmly afterwards, amid a developing media hurricane. “There is only one Don King.”

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