Don King, in front of fellow promoter Bob Arum during a news conference in… (Mark Lennihan / Associated…)
Just in case anybody wonders, Don King is alive and well. Actually, more so than ever.
He is 82 going on 50. The hair doesn't quite stand on end in its salute to electrical shock treatments as it once did. That's because there isn't enough of it anymore.
But the faded American flag jacket, and the big cigar that he just kind of chews on, and the five or six layers of jeweled necklaces, and the American flag tie, remain standard props.
Also standard is the hilarious babble with which he promotes a boxing match from a podium. King doesn't just have the gift of gab. He invented it.
It is all such delightful baloney. It makes you grateful that somebody created the sport of boxing, where everything is overdone, over-hyped and disingenuous, because it is such a perfect home for him.
He had center stage Thursday, because he has a fighter and a vacant heavyweight title. There he was, in perhaps the strangest of settings from which he has ever spewed forth, Heritage Hall on the USC campus.
He stood in front of the usual boxing promotional poster, which was positioned between giant pictures of Tom Seaver and Giles Pellerin. It was the consummate USC pitcher and the consummate USC fan, standing as bookends for the consummate uneducated and street-smart blatherer.
The serious subject matter was a May 10 fight between Miami's Bermane Stiverne and Riverside's Chris Arreola. It will be held at USC's Galen Center, which has recently been the site of many knockouts just about every time the Trojans' basketball team played.
Stiverne is King's fighter. Arreola is promoted by Dan Goossen.
The fight will actually crown a heavyweight champion of the world, but when King and Goossen tried to present it as a world-class happening, it sounded hollow.
Yes, the winner will be a heavyweight champion, once a title that made legends of men. But this one will crown one of five heavyweight champs. It will fill the World Boxing Council spot left when Vitali Klitschko retired to focus on helping lead the charge of the opposition forces in the Russian-Ukrainian dispute. But there are also heavyweight titles sanctioned by the WBO, WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine. Each is held by Klitschko's brother, Wladimir.
That tookmuch of the zing out of the hype — that and the fact that, in all likelihood, a fight creating an international sports buzz probably would not be held in a college campus basketball arena.
Stiverne and Arreola have fought before. Stiverne won a lopsided unanimous decision last July. Arreola lasted gamely to the end, despite walking into a huge right hand in the third round and going down.
Stiverne, a native of Haiti and citizen of Canada, has a 23-1-1 record and 20 of those victories were by knockout. Arreola is 36-3, with 31 KOs.
No matter. Until fight night, this will be a Don King show. Thursday, he was at his outrageous best.
He called Stiverne "a young Mike Tyson." Stiverne is 35.
He called the gathering, in a small room at USC, "the biggest boxing press conference in the history of boxing in the last 200 years."
He likened the food at the news conference, a buffet of ordinary sandwiches and snacks, to "ambrosia."
He said that boxing is like life because, "when you run out of petrol, there is no filling station around."
He talked about the Fall of Babylon, geometric progression and the similarities of this event to Winston Churchill's declaration that "we will fight on land, on sea…" Those weren't Churchill's exact words, but then, there is seldom any blood, sweat and tears in King's efforts at accuracy.
The lunacy continued nonstop.
At one point, in summary, King said, "Either way, this fight is going to be a fight."
Hard to argue.