King and Holmes on Boxing

Scott Simon talks with boxing promoter Don King and boxing hall of famer Larry Holmes about their new video game, Don King Presents: Prizefighter, with story lines, in and out of the ring.

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Unidentified Man: But if America didn't have Don King, they'd have to invent one.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

For anything to be taken seriously in boxing, it needs the nod of the king, Don King. And next week, 2K Sports launches "Don King Presents: Prizefighter." It's a video game with storylines in and out of the ring that includes real-life boxers, including Larry Holmes. So who joins us now from New York, but Don King and Larry Holmes? Gentleman, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. LARRY HOLMES (Hall of Fame Boxer): Thank you.

Mr. DON KING (Boxing Promoter): It's a delight to be here with you, Scott.

SIMON: Look, I'm delighted to talk to both of you. But was there a time when you guys didn't exactly get along?

Mr. HOLMES: We don't get along now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLMES: But we love each other, you know.

Mr. KING: And that's what it's really all about. You see, it isn't about, you know, agreeing to agree, agreeing to disagree. So it's a thing here that working together works, and we have worked together for now 30, 40 years. So it's really - it's a remarkable thing for me, and to see him voted into the Hall of Fame, and like a son to me, it's like a gratification beyond description or depiction.

Mr. HOLMES: You know, like Dante. You can always disagree, but we never lost respect for each other. And that's the whole main thing. You never lose respect for the person, especially when the guy is pulling his dollars out of his pocket to put something in yours. So you know what? You can't lose respect for that, and you got to give the man the credit.

SIMON: I feel we should at least go through the motions of talking about this video game.

(Soundbite of laughing)

SIMON: And Mr. Holmes, how did - as I understand it, there's a, you know, a Larry Holmes character in here. How does he measure up to the real guy?

Mr. HOLMES: It's going to be hard to beat. Because you know what? The hammer's light jab, what I call the Holmes Hammer, you can't get past it. If you can get past that, then you got a real problem. You've got to get past it right. That kept me as the heavyweight champion for seven-and-a-half years, longer than anybody expect for the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis. Seven-and-a-half years, the heavyweight championship. I mean, that's remarkable.

Mr. KING: I can attest to that. And I can say this without any reservation. Larry Holmes is one of the greatest fighters of all time. But more importantly, he is a great human being. And this is what really counts, what you see in the game is what it is. That's why the game is so phenomenally interesting.

When the game teachers, the trainers, the conditioners, is a part of a game where you have to really get prepared and don't just jump up there and figures been fighting each other and one guy be knocking them out because his hand may be quicker on the key than the other. This what is way you have to go through the process that you would do in real life. And this makes this game a knockout over any other game out there in the sport of boxing.

SIMON: Mr. King, hope you don't mind me asking, but I, of course, did some reading. And you said in interviews in the past that going to prison turned your life around.

Mr. KING: Well, listen. I made the time serve me. I ended up going into the numbers business and ended up going to prison. All right, now in prison I decided then...

SIMON: We got explain, you went to prison because - do I have this right? You beat a man?

Mr. KING: Yes, I had a fight. I had a fistfight, what we call "expression of the ghetto." I happened to be unfortunate to fight a man who expired a little later on. And so that was - how do you expiate for the sins that you have committed? You know what I mean, you have to atone for them. You must be able to give to others. And you know, it took me back to my Lord, the savior Jesus Christ, from faith I moved on to higher ground.

SIMON: You know, it is such a delight to speak with both of you. Can I share something with you that I didn't like about the game?

Mr. KING: Yes, you can.

SIMON: A few years ago, number of years ago at this point, I did a series on brain damage in boxing. And we talked to a lot of fighters. We talked to a lot of trainers. We talked to Floyd Patterson. We talked to Mike Tyson. And I was shocked to discover how many people who participate in prize fighting, according to medical studies, suffer from brain damage. And it really changed the way I feel about prize fighting being a sport. You know, and of course, that's not reflected in this game.

Mr. KING: Well, you know, that may be true but you got to understand that anything that you do, you going to undertake a risk. That's why in this game it demonstrates through the training procedure, through the process of what you do, what prevents a lot of the things that happen, all right?

So you know, we've come out of that peculiar institution called slavery. All right, so they break your legs and ask you why you're limping. They deny you their schools and seminaries and colleges and asked you why you're so dumb. All right, so you got to understand that either you going down on your feet or you know, you're going always be on your knees as a slave and indentured servitude.

So here's the thing here, what do you choose? If a man has to be able to support his family, and just what you were just saying about the fighters that may have damage and the fighters that haven't got damage and you can compare. We say prizefighter, all the prizefighter's a star. Any man who has the courage to walk up those three steps because you have to have courage.

If you get in the ring, you can't call timeout and send in a substitute. If you run out of gas, there is no gas station in sight. You got to be able to deal with the problem which is right before you. And that's what you do with the problems of life.

Mr. HOLMES: Well, you know, boxers and football players, basketball players, we all know there is a risk in everything you do. And you know, if you don't take that risk you'll never accomplish anything. But I don't worry about it. If you worry about things you can't live right. You can't do the things that you need to do or you want to do or you should do. So you know, I don't worry about it.

When I got in the boxing, I go in the boxing trying to earn a living so I can take care of my family. So I don't have to kill myself for the rest of my life in that boxing ring, going in on anybody's job or driving anybody's truck or digging anybody a hole. And if it weren't for boxing, I wouldn't be here now talking to you about boxing. I probably be somewhere else, digging a hole or probably not even having a job.

But boxing got me here, boxing get me into the Boxing Hall of Fame, boxing gave me 75 fights, 69 wins with 44 knockouts. If it weren't for boxing, what will I do? Where will I be?

SIMON: Thank you so much, gentlemen.

Mr. HOLMES: Thank you very much.

Mr. KING: We really appreciate and thank you, and thank God we got a country like America. Shalom, mazel tov.

SIMON: And also to you. Shalom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Larry Holmes goes into the Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday. And Don King. 2K Sports launches "Don King Presents: Prizefighter," a video game.

(Soundbite of "Pumpin' It Up" by George Clinton)

SIMON: This is "Pumpin' It Up" by George Clinton. Wonder if he's gonna run for vice president? This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. Shalom. Scott Simon.

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