It was a stellar performance by Don King at Gallagher’s Steak House on Monday afternoon, even if he didn’t pay attention to the adage about brevity being the soul of wit.
King, in town to hype his Nov. 4 Phoenix fight card topped by Sergei Liakhovich/Shannon Briggs, managed to cram in a infomercial on his worth to the fight game; offer a semi-brief history of the WBO’s heavyweight championship; state why he believes the ‘BO’s current title owner, Liakhovich, is the man at the top of the heavyweight heap. He also delved into his version of how the Liakhovich/Briggs fight scheduled for Nov. 4 came together, and in doing so, heaped ample criticism upon veteran fight manager Shelly Finkel, who represents IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
King, at his most inflammatory, compared Finkel’s efforts in securing a Nov. 11 date at Madison Square Garden to the workings of Joseph Goebbels, who functioned as Adolph Hitler’s propaganda chief from 1933 until he took his own life in 1945 as the Nazi regime crumbled. “Shelly outdid Goebbels,” King said to the assembled media.
The promoter took umbrage at Finkel’s play to secure the Garden for Nov. 11, and for inserting a clause in the contract that prohibited another boxing show from being booked into the building for a period up to 60 days prior to his card. That move, Finkel tells TSS, is a standard CYA (cover-your-ass) move that is common in his prior arena of expertise, concert promotion.
King thundered on Monday that Finkel misled Garden officials, by telling them that he had Shannon Briggs, a Brooklyn fighter who would help at the gate and ensure ample media coverage, signed, sealed and delivered. King said that Finkel put one over on the Garden management, as he was promising the date to Briggs, while also pursuing a Klitschko/Oleg Maskaev partial-unification bout.
Finkel took exception to this presentation by King.
“My contract with the Garden says ‘Klitschko to fight Shannon Briggs, or another suitable opponent,’” he explained.
Finkel also broke it down for TSS readers the reasoning behind choosing Brock as the opponent, after everyone and their brother thought that Briggs was being tabbed for the gig.
“If we fight Briggs and we blow him out in a round, then we fought a bum,” he said. “Or we win and Wladimir looked bad, then he’s a bum.”
The negotiations for Klitschko/Briggs, Finkel said, were proceeding smoothly, until a rematch clause was discussed.
“We wanted a rematch in Germany,” Finkel said, “because we figure if Wlad lost in the Garden, which we don’t think is a possibility, then a rematch wouldn’t be worth that much here, as it would in Germany.”
At that point, he said, when things were getting sticky, Oleg Maskaev muddied up the mix by beating Hasim Rahman.
That was on August 12, and Finkel says, he was indeed interested in putting Klitschko in with the WBC champ, in a compelling battle of Eastern Euros.
Finkel told the Briggs brigade, he says, that if Maskaev wanted that fight, then Briggs could fight on the undercard for a healthy purse ($250,000). Maskaev’s management, led by Dennis Rappaport, took their time in getting back to Finkel, the manager says, and so Briggs was left to wait and dangle why his fate was out of his hands.
Finkel took off on a cruise and got word during the voyage that Briggs was getting antsy, and was making his way over to King. Finkel had been dealing with Cedric Kushner as Briggs’ promoter, and when Finkel told Kushner of the development, he says that Kushner was in the dark.
Briggs proclaimed his distaste for Finkel at Gallagher’s as well.
“Shelly is a scumbag,” he said. “He used my name to go the Garden. He had me sitting at home, waiting for a fax for two months. He was bullsh——.”
Finkel counters that volley quickly.
“That’s OK, when he was on the phone with me trying to get the deal he said, ‘I know you’re the nicest guy in the sport. And he said he’d pay me back the $5,000 I lent him as an amateur, which I never asked him for. I do have compassion for Shannon (for having to wait). But he didn’t have the courtesy to send me the money he owed me when he fought for the title.”
Finkel feels that Briggs didn’t make the right move for himself financially, as he would have been paid over $1 million to fight Klitschko, while he’ll receive about half that to face Liakhovich, from what Finkel hears.
This isn’t a case of business matters turning personal, Finkel explains.
He and King have been cordial in the past, and, he says, he has called King to inquire about his wife’s health when she was ailing. But there is copious water under their bridge, with many hours spent in legal wranglings. Finkel took on advisory role with Mike Tyson in 1998, which King didn’t appreciate. Also, when Chris Byrd wanted to sue his way out of his contract with King in 2005, Byrd joined up with Klitschko and Finkel in a case against the IBF. The fighter and his advisor Finkel wanted the IBF to name him as the top contender for the sanctioning body, instead of King’s fighter, DaVarryl Williamson. On that occasion, Finkel remembers, he helped King by encouraging a settlement, rather than a money-draining, time-wasting courtroom Lawyerpalooza. Then, Finkel says, King was his pal.
Finkel finds the comparison of himself to the monstrous Goebbels disgusting, but isn’t interested in an escalating war of words with King. “He’s [used similar terminology] before,” Finkel said. “I’m not going to stoop to comment.”
“This is about King being outmaneuvered in the deal with the Garden,” he says. “King goes crazy if something doesn’t go his way.”