King one step ahead of chasing FBI pack

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The Independent Online

The Federal Bureau of Investigation appears to have failed again in its exhaustive, and hugely expensive, effort to bring down the boxing empire of Don King. That, certainly, is how the decision of a jury in New Jersey to acquit the International Boxing Federation founder Bob Lee on charges of accepting bribes from promoters is being interpreted within the American game.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation appears to have failed again in its exhaustive, and hugely expensive, effort to bring down the boxing empire of Don King. That, certainly, is how the decision of a jury in New Jersey to acquit the International Boxing Federation founder Bob Lee on charges of accepting bribes from promoters is being interpreted within the American game.

The belief is that the FBI's strategy was to win conviction against the ailing Lee and then make a plea bargain which would have taken him into the witness box to testify against King. But though the jury did return guilty verdicts on six of 33 felony charges - for tax evasion, money laundering and interstate travel in aid of racketeering - the crucial bribery charges were rejected.

The irony of this has no doubt amused King. Less so, his most bitter rival, Bob Arum. The jury, after nearly three weeks of deliberation, brought in their verdict at the same time as the Nevada Athletic Commission was fining Arum £82,000 and banning him from holding credentials at any fight in Nevada for six months. However, he will be allowed to buy a fight ticket and his Top Rank company will continue to promote fights.

As expected, the punishment for Arum's confession - in return for indemnity against prosecution - that he paid Lee a bribe of £67,000 to rig the IBF rankings and facilite a world title fight between George Foreman and Axel Schulz, is almost entirely cosmetic. For Arum the real punishment is probably that King, who has twice beaten off Fededral prosecutions, for tax evasion and wire fraud, now appears to be in the clear, certainly if the FBI operates the principle applied to old lags of three strikes and out.

King, who is now pursuing possible lucrative fights for the new World Boxing Association champion, Evander Holyfield, against either Britain's Lennox Lewis - who holds the IBF, WBC and IBO titles - or Mike Tyson, talked angrily of double standards when the white promoters Arum, Cedric Kushioner and Dino Duva were offered indemnity deals by the Federal prosecutors. But once again King has augmented his reputation as the Houdini of the American justice system.

After a jury in New York acquitted him on the wire charge, built around allegations that he had submitted false claims to Lloyd's of London, he celebrated the "strength of American justice" by flying some of the jurors to the Bahamas for a fishing trip and a shopping spree.

"It could only happen in America," he chortled.

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