Originally created 06/19/97

Boxing `Hall of Shame'



Of all professional sports, boxing deservedly has by far the worst reputation. In fact, it seems to revel in its ugly image - witness this week's induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame of fight promoter Don King.

Here's a man only the fight game could love and it's enough to make your hair stand on end. King is most readily recognized by his electric-shock hair-do and for being the fast-talking friend and money-manager of ex-heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.

Less known to the general public is the rest of the story. King started out in Cleveland's numbers rackets and was once convicted of killing two people. Since he got into professional boxing, he has been sued by at least 20 of his former fighters for violating contracts and ripping off their purses. Currently, he faces retrial on federal insurance fraud charges.

What could the boxing writers and historians who voted to honor this slime in the Hall of Fame been thinking Ä that they were voting on the Hall of Shame? Putting King's name alongside those of esteemed ring warriors like Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali and others demeans their names.

The New York Post's Wallace Matthews got it exactly right when he wrote that enshrining Don King is the same as if Major League Baseball inducted into Cooperstown the gangsters who fixed the 1919 World Series.

Sadly, professional boxing's bad reputation rubs off on the rest of the sport and that isn't fair to amateur boxing which, despite some controversial judging in Olympic competitions, is generally respected in the U.S. and around the world.

In large measure, that's due to people like Augusta Boxing Club coach Tom Moraetes and other lovers of the "sweet science" who recruit youngsters off the streets and use boxing as a way to teach them discipline and self-respect Ä and along the way develop some world-class fighters.

It's the Tom Moraetes of the world who deserve induction into boxing's Hall of Fame. They keep the sport alive, interesting and respectable. Scuz-balls like King could knock the sport out of the ring permanently.