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Dien Rice
April 23, 2015, 05:21 PM

Don King isn't the most ethical man in the universe. However, he certainly did (does) have some smarts...

Do you know how he set up the "Rumble in the Jungle" - with virtually no risk to himself?

If you need a little memory jog, the "Rumble in the Jungle" was the fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. It was held in Zaire - now called the Democratic Republic of Congo - in 1974.

Don King had this idea... He'd get Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to fight.

At the time, George Foreman was the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Muhammad Ali had been stripped of his championship titles in 1967 after refusing the draft (for religious/ethical reasons). However, he was now back in the ring, and back on his way up.

It would be an epic fight. Would George Foreman destroy Muhammad Ali on his comeback? Or would Ali somehow prevail?

Where Don King was clever was... He offered the fight to both George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. They signed an agreement that they would fight each other, on the condition that Don King could pay them $5 million each.

Don King didn't have the money to pay them. So what was on his mind?

This was like an option contract. If Don King came up with the money, they were obliged to fight. If he couldn't come up with the money, well, Don King lost nothing. By getting them to sign, he was in a virtually no-lose situation!

(The same was true for George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. By signing, they were both virtually in no-lose situations too, at least financially.)

To make a long story short, Don King eventually managed to convince the dictator of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, to put up the $10 million dollars to pay the two fighters $5 million dollars each. Mobutu paid it partly to get worldwide publicity for Zaire. I'm sure his own ego played a big part in it, too!

To him it wasn't much... As a dictator, Mobutu was worth billions. (Most of it was hidden in Swiss bank accounts.)

So, if the $10 million went to the two fighters, what did Don King get out of it?

Don King got to sell the worldwide broadcast rights! Which would have been worth quite a lot!

What interests me is the clever, virtually no-risk way that Don King set this up...

He may have cheated a lot of people over time, but from his history, it's clear he had a sharp mind. Pity he was unethical, too, and often didn't pay people what he promised - as he could have succeeded without needing to be that way.

Best wishes,


P.S. What happened in the end? Ali won the fight. George Foreman lost, and gave up professional boxing for a long time after that. The ironic thing is, George Foreman is now five times richer than Muhammad Ali. For that, he can thank the George Foreman grill!

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