By Johnny Walker
Veteran boxing promoter Don King has made a troubling assessment of David Haye and the Klitschko brothers today in the British media.
King, who turns 80 today, tells www.dailymail.co.uk that the Klitschko brothers “are good big men” who “are more champions of Germany than of the world.” He added that “your David Haye was a horrible disappointment against Wladimir.”
The really interesting part of King’s remarks about the Klitschkos and Germany comes next, when King says of Haye:
“‘[He] would never have fought that feebly if he had been with me. He had the charisma and style to revive heavyweight boxing but, in a stadium full of Germans, he became one of many fighters I’ve known who were afraid to hit the white man.”
It’s hard to know where to begin with a statement like this. Never mind that David Haye’s mother is white, and therefore Haye himself is half white, which complicates what King said even more. If you go along with King’s thinking, maybe David Haye was too conflicted by his racial composition to fight properly against Wladimir Klitschko.
A bigger question: Is King giving voice to an undercurrent in the American boxing community about the Klitschkos’ heavyweight title reign?
It is interesting that many of the fighters the Klitschkos have defeated, like Kevin Johnson, still show the champions no respect, but continue to talk trash about them as if they had won rather than been destroyed. There is a feeling of resentment and disrespect about the Klitschkos that emanates from many fighters, usually black fighters, who speak about them, that goes beyond what is normally seen in boxing.
The overall feeling that comes from these remarks, including King’s when he says that the Klitschkos are “more champions of Germany than of the world,” is that the brothers are somehow illegitimate champions. That they are just placeholders until what King calls someone “with the charisma and style to revive heavyweight boxing” comes along.
And that “someone” is very likely not a white man.
King, of course, is playing on world history here, even though in implying that Germans love the Klitschkos not only because they are white European men, but because they are white men who beat up black men, he misses the irony that Adolf Hitler considered Eastern Europeans to be inferior, the “untermenschen.” The Klitschkos thus would make very odd supermen in the dead political ideology to which King alludes with his “stadium full of Germans” remark.
Imagine if the situation was reversed, and if Bob Arum had said that the Klitschkos were afraid to hit a black man in the United States or England. No doubt much mayhem would ensue in the press, and not just in the boxing press. But this remark from Don King is not even challenged by the writer of the article. His racial remark is allowed to pass as if it isn’t inflammatory in the least.
Finally, King may also have a personal reason for his animus against the Klitschkos. In the recent Klitschko documentary, Don King is shown on camera trying to con the young brothers into signing a deal with him. In an effort to impress the boys, who he recognizes as having great talent, King moves to a piano and begins playing a classical sonata. Vitali Klitschko relates that at first he and Wladimir were highly impressed, thinking King to be an artist as well as a boxing promoter.
Then Vitali looked closer and saw that King was seated at a player piano and was only miming, not actually playing the music. The brothers decided that this little act spoke ill of King’s character, and resisted his pressure to sign a deal.
Some will insist, of course, that the now 80-year-old Don King is an irrelevant fossil and that his remarks shouldn’t be taken seriously. But to the extent that King is giving voice to a feeling that is out there in boxing world, the remarks are indeed important.
And King shouldn’t merely be given a pass on them.