If you’ve been on the internet for more than six months and are of sound mind, you can probably immediately identify the aesthetics of misinformation. You know the types of Facebook or Instagram posts: Comic sans font, bizarre sentence structure, random capitalization and grammar paired with a crude image of dubious origin. The ones that look exactly like ones @dasharez0ne mocks on Twitter. When you see them, you know that what you’re looking at probably isn’t on the up and up.
If you looked at the poster for this past weekend’s Don King-promoted offering in Warren, OH, those alarm bells in your mind might have sounded. Star-spangled and scrambled in syntax, the poster looked like something you ought not to trust if it came across your timeline. The promotion couldn’t quite decide on its tagline. It promised “REAL BOXING” in the first of (at least) five fonts used on the design which faded into the background as if it were backing down on its own promise. It touted the night as a “Return To Greatness” in WordArt, either a nod to King’s second promotion since 2018 or the reality of an American heavyweight holding an off-brand version of a world title. It also said the night was a “Homecoming At Last,” presumably meaning King running a show in his home state of Ohio. Lastly, it advertised “4 Steps To Glory,” which might have been in reference to the four NABA title fights on the card, included in the tabulation of the “Six Title Fights” promised as well.
But even if the poster had been designed by Saul Bass, the event being put on by King would have been enough to make boxing fans skeptical in a variety of ways. King has only staged two events since 2018, but many more have been promised. Although the event was ultimately streamed by FITE, a stable and reputable platform with a sterling reputation in the industry, the streaming options advertised on the poster itself were DonKing.com, DKPBoxing.com and ITUBE247.com, all of which sounded like great potential places to send $39.99 to if you didn’t care about the possibility of the event running or having recourse for a refund if it didn’t air.
Beyond that, there is no promoter alive who has been accused of more misdeeds than King. As he’ll no doubt tell you, almost all have never been proven, as evidenced by his championship caliber record in the courtroom. Nonetheless, there is the prevailing feeling of distrust within the boxing industry when King is involved.
Whether he’s directly culpable or not, strange things tend to happen when King is around. And in the end, weird stuff did indeed happen in both the co-main and main events on Saturday.
The co-main event featured WBA regular heavyweight titleholder Trevor Bryan defending against Jonathan Guidry. The short version of how this match-up came to be is that Manuel Charr was unable to secure a P-1 visa in time for the bout. The long version is that Charr filed a breach of contract lawsuit against King in August, effectively alleging that King has failed to provide a written contract for two consecutive proposed bouts, rendering it impossible for him to acquire said visa. In between those two bouts, which turned into Bryan vs. Bermane Stiverne and Bryan vs. Guidry, Charr fought Christopher Lovejoy, a fight King attempted to block with the threat of a lawsuit of his own.
Bryan-Guidry turned out to be a solid, spirited scrap, the value and validity of the title on the line aside. It might not have been “one of the best heavyweight fights in recent memory” as the commentators described on the broadcast, but it was a competitive affair with some good exchanges which Bryan clearly won. There was even a feel-good moment in the final seconds, when Guidry, a full-time shrimper and crab fisherman who took the bout on a month’s notice, got back to his feet after a final second knockdown to reach the final bell.
Brian Kennedy scored the bout 116-111 for Bryan, Nathan Palmer had it even wider at 118-109, but Steve Weisfeld inexplicably scored it 115-112 for Guidry.
Often cited as one of boxing’s best judges, Weisfeld’s night wouldn’t get much better, but at least in the next bout he’d have company.
In the main event, Ilunga Makabu rematched Thabiso Mchunu in a defense of his WBC cruiserweight title. Late last year at the WBC convention, Canelo Alvarez shockingly announced his intention to move up to cruiserweight to face Makabu. It was a stunning turn of fortune for Makabu, whose financial ceiling on a per-fight basis was likely already touching his head, but was now somehow in line to face the sport’s consensus best fighter and biggest draw. It was also quite the coup for King, who at 90 years of age and well past his days as the sport’s star promoter was suddenly readying to promote what would be one of the biggest fights of the year.
A wrench was thrown into those plans when Mchunu declared that he would not accept step-side money to allow the Canelo fight to happen before he received his title shot. King told media members at the time that he expected Canelo to be in attendance for Makabu-Mchunu II, however, he was not.
If Canelo was watching at home on ITUBE247 instead, he saw what looked like a Mchunu victory, and perhaps, a different dance partner for his venture up to cruiserweight. Mchunu hurt Makabu on more than one occasion, troubling him badly with a right hook thrown both as a lead and a counter. Most online commenters during the bout seemed to agree that Mchunu had won at least eight rounds and that the decision win should have been comfortable.
But Don King shows in 2022 exist in a reality that is difficult to comprehend. One in which Junior Makabu won a split decision, thanks to the eight rounds he won on judge Jamie Garayua’s scorecard and Weisfeld, the man many consider to be boxing’s most trustworthy judge, scoring it 115-113 in his favor, ensuring that King still holds a ticket to co-promote a fight involving the sport’s biggest superstar.
In the end, the poster for the event screamed loudly that what you were looking at wasn’t the truth. The results of the night delivered on that promise.
Corey Erdman is a boxing writer and commentator based in Toronto, ON, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman