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BOXING / TIM KAWAKAMI : King Faces Nine Count, but Will Fight Charges

October 03, 1995|TIM KAWAKAMI

Accused of countless criminal, immoral and generally rude things, but convicted in court only once, the most controversial man in boxing faces judge and jury again later this month.

So, is this the case that does in Don King? Or will it be the one that inducts him into the pantheon of infamous but unpunished American rogues?

"I think he's worried," said Jack Newfield, author of the recently published book, "Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King." "But I would say it's even money whether he gets convicted. I have the utmost respect for his intelligence and for the ability of his lawyer, Peter Fleming.

"In some ways, the point of my book is, sometimes the bad guy is just smarter than the good guys. A lot of people that I've written about have gotten away with a lot of things. [Richard] Nixon only got caught because he taped himself. It took three trials to get [John] Gotti, three trials to get [Jimmy] Hoffa. And I think King is in the league of Hoffa and Nixon."

King is charged with nine counts of insurance fraud involving a 1991 Julio Cesar Chavez fight that was canceled. King is accused of filing a claim with Lloyd's of London for losses that he did not actually incur, and each count carries a maximum five-year sentence.

Conveniently, the federal trial in New York, which could have opening arguments this week, figures to end just in time for Tyson's bout Nov. 4 against Buster Mathis Jr., at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

King, who spent four years in prison for manslaughter three decades ago, beat a 1985 federal indictment on income tax evasion in the same New York court as the current trial--but his secretary, Constance Harper, was convicted and served four months.

This time, with the federal prosecutors determined to keep the case lean and direct, King apparently is planning to protect his empire, Don King Productions, if he is convicted.

"Somebody I know who is very friendly with King said that King has told him, if he is convicted he would turn the operations over to [promoter] Harry Warren and Warren would be a custodian," Newfield said. "I think King is 65 [actually, 64], and he'd be out on appeal for a year."

Most important for the boxing world, a federal conviction of King throws into doubt his promotional contracts, including the package, potentially worth more than $100 million, he put together for Tyson. If King is the head of Don King Productions, and if his promoter's license is suspended by most major states because of a federal conviction, who controls the fighters? Are Tyson's twin deals with Showtime and the MGM Grand still binding?

"I think he can come out," Newfield said of King. "But I don't know how he gets his license back. I would think most commissions would revoke his license at the point of a felony conviction. Certainly, Nevada and New Jersey would be under pressure to suspend his license.

"The issue would be license revocation and legal validity of contracts that are with King and Don King Productions, and at that point, Tyson would have his second chance at liberation."

In his book, Newfield argues that King has stolen millions from a long line of fighters, from Muhammad Ali to Larry Holmes, and finally, to Tyson, who returned to King's fold after being released from prison last spring, despite firsthand knowledge of King's irregular accounting practices.

One of Newfield's sources, former King accountant Joseph Maffia, accuses King of having stolen hundreds of thousands from Tyson, and apparently is a key witness in the Lloyd's case.

"Somebody asked me is my first wish that Tyson read my book," Newfield said. "No, my first wish is that the CEO of the MGM [Grand] and the CEO of Showtime would read my book. I think they are King's corporate enablers. They're propping King up, and they don't know anything about boxing."

*

The tragic life of Bobby Chacon (cont.): Facing drug charges after he was arrested in Pacoima last month, the former featherweight champion had his preliminary hearing in Van Nuys Superior Court postponed last week until Oct. 26 while his attorney gathers proof that Chacon suffers from pugilista dementia , the medical term for being punch drunk.

Art Aragon, the retired fighter who runs a bail-bond company, has been assisting the 43-year-old Chacon, who is out on his own recognizance. Aragon said that the presiding judge was sensitive to Chacon's confused condition, caused by devastating ring wars and a life dotted with personal misery, including the suicide of his first wife more than a decade ago.

Also, the charges were reduced to misdemeanor aiding and abetting, which means Chacon's potential jail sentence, if he is convicted, will be a maximum 180 days, rather than the original minimum felony prison time of five years.

"I tell any parent that if they're thinking about letting their kid be a fighter, just look at Bobby," Aragon said. "Look at what that punishment did to him."

Boxing Notes

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