Don King rules in boxing’s parallel world of comical WBA chaos

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·4-min read
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  • Bermane Stiverne
    Canadian boxer
  • Mahmoud Charr
    Syrian boxer
  • Anthony Joshua
    Anthony Joshua
    English boxer
  • Trevor Bryan
    American boxer
American boxing promoter Don King will turn 90 this year but is going nowhere (Getty Images)
American boxing promoter Don King will turn 90 this year but is going nowhere (Getty Images)

Only Don King could promote a world heavyweight title fight in total obscurity, sing the praises of all involved, aim for the stars, ignore all the facts and declare his man the real champion of the world.

Last Friday at a bingo resort in Florida, King watched and waved his American flags as Bermane Stiverne and Trevor Bryan walked to a ring to fight for the WBA’s heavyweight title. Yes, the same title that Anthony Joshua owns, the same jewelled trophy that heavyweight giants for 60 years have proudly held, kissed and slept with.

The WBA, you see, has a lot of heavyweight world champions, a belt for all sizes, ability, age and height; Joshua holds their Super title, a man from Finland is their Gold champion, the interim belt is vacant and a fighter of Syrian descent, Manuel Charr, is the Champion-in-Recess. The WBA has gone rogue.

In recent years in the wacky world of the WBA, Charr, who is 36, has been a personal favourite of mine. He is a man eternally available it seems, rarely seen in a ring, a noted playboy and without a single impressive win on his record of 35 fights. There are a couple of wins over relics, but nothing serious – that is standard for a lot of protected heavyweights until they win a title and are forced to face better fighters.

Charr was meant to fight Bryan, but Covid kiboshed his travel plans for last Friday night’s fight. His elevation from ‘regular’ to recess, without a fight since November 2017, is strictly business in the mad galaxy of boxing jurisdiction. It is a sport where men have died and gently climbed the rankings and not just for one month or two.

Charr has also been shot, faced charges of attempted murder after a knife attack and been banned from boxing at times. He’s my greatest ever Lebanese-born scrapper and he will be back for his belt, trust me.

The other facts behind the lunatic details of Friday's fight are preposterous: Bryan has been inactive since August 2018, Stiverne is 42 and has not won a fight since 2015. Stiverne was knocked out in one round by Deontay Wilder in 2017 and was stopped by British novice Joe Joyce in six rounds in February 2019. It seems that being part of a WBA title fight is some type of comical lottery and King is an ace at shuffling the balls.

Still, the WBA, formed in 1961, expects and receives a sanctioning fee each time one of their hundreds of belts is fought for in fights of incredibly reduced relevance and increased anarchy. Charr, who is based in Germany and was born in Lebanon to Syrian parents, did at one time hold the WBC Slovak heavyweight belt. The WBA is the most out of control sanctioning body, but there is some serious competition.

Lebanese-born German heavyweight Manuel CharrAFP via Getty Images
Lebanese-born German heavyweight Manuel CharrAFP via Getty Images

The abuse of the interim title, which should and could be a great addition, is ridiculous; it should be used only when an active champion is injured and two fighters contest the title to keep the belt active in the interim. It works that way and should have never become a regular feature on any boxing bill. Bryan had to vacate his interim title to fight for the regular title and there have been interim title fights for the interim belt. How can that be explained?

However, legitimacy has never been an issue in King’s boxing world of heavyweight champions, championship fights, hype, trickery and a basic desire for greed. Trust me, Stiverne against Bryan is far from being the worst heavyweight title fight King has promoted. The WBA is simply a willing vessel for King to utilise in a business that he has mastered. It was, remember, the WBA’s decision in 1964 to not recognise Muhammad Ali and sanction Ernie Terrell and Eddie Machen for their vacant title in 1965 – it is a wonder the sanctioning body still exists. Machen and Terrell could really fight, by the way.

Bryan stopped Stiverne in the 11th round to follow Charr, Ruslan Chagaev and Lucas Browne as one of the four WBA regular world heavyweight champions since 2014. It’s a parallel world, far from the fists of Joshua and Tyson Fury, a world where a greyer, smaller Don King carries on like it is 1987. Also, in the Fury and Joshua world there is no room for King, a man for so long in control of the great prize.

The show last Friday was dubbed Return To Greatness, and even King, a veteran of The Rumble in the Jungle, the greatest nights in the history of Las Vegas with Mike Tyson and a thousand other heavyweight nights, would have chuckled at that.

“The whole of planet earth will know Bryan,” howled King, who will be 90 this year and is still a long way from riding off into the sunset.

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