By Thomas Hauser and Charles Dickens
Boxing was dead. There was no doubt about that. There was no official register of its burial. But the major media had long since ceased to cover the sport; television ratings were down; and pay-per-view buys were negligible.
Don King had known that the sweet science was dying. As an excellent man of business, he had presided over its death throes for years. And although he was not dreadfully saddened by its demise, he spoke fondly of the sport upon its passing.
King was a tight-fisted covetous man; hard as flint from which no steel had ever struck a generous fire. The cold within him froze his features. He carried his own low temperature with him. No wind that blew was more bitter than he.
On Christmas Eve, Don King sat in his office, busy at his desk. Outside, the weather was bleak and biting. His office staff had all gone home except for an aging employee who was sweeping the floors.
"I suppose you'll want tomorrow off," King said.
"If convenient, sir," the employee told him.
"It's neither convenient nor fair for a man to be paid a full day's wages for no work. Christmas is nothing but an excuse to pick a man's pocket every December 25th."
"But it's only once a year, sir."
"Very well, then. Be off with you. And make certain you're here early on the morning of the 26th."
"Thank you, sir. And Merry Christmas."
"Bah! Humbug! What reason have you to be merry? If I had my way, every man who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips would be boiled in oil and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."
That evening, King partook of a melancholy dinner at his usual melancholy tavern and went home for the night. He turned his key in the keyhole, entered the small gloomy room in which he lived, and lit a candle.
A small candle. Darkness was cheap, and King loved it. He disrobed, put on his stocking cap and pajamas, and climbed into bed.
Fog poured into the bed chamber through the keyhole and every chink in the walls. Then came a dull distant roar.
The door flew open. Resplendant in a regal robe, the apparition of Muhammad Ali appeared, then vanished.
It had been him. King was certain. Still --
"I choose not to believe it," King told himself as he drifted off to sleep.
At midnight, the bells on the clock in the village square intruded upon King's slumber. A gust of wind swept through the room.
Then, translucent and bloated with a drooping walrus-like mustache, the ghost of Cedric Kushner entered the bed chamber.
"Spirit; why do you come?" King demanded.
"You stole Hasim Rahman from me," the apparition answered.
"But we were men of business."
"Mankind is our business. The common welfare of humanity is our business. Charity, mercy, and benevolence are our business. At this time of year, I suffer most," the apparition wailed. "I cannot rest for having walked among my fellow man with my eyes turned down, oblivious to the suffering I saw."
"Get out of my dream, motherfucker."
"A warning to you," the apparition cried. "Change your ways."
Then it, too, vanished.
King rose from his bed and examined the door through which he presumed the apparition to have entered and departed. It was double-locked from the inside, its bolts undisturbed.
"It was a bad dream," King told himself. "That's all. Nothing more than an undigested bit of beef, a seed of bad mustard, a sliver of rancid cheese."
And with that, King fell asleep again, only to be awakened by shrieks of anguish. He opened his eyes.
The room had been transformed into a chamber of horrors. Old rags, broken bottles, and bones littered the floor.
Bernard Hopkins stood before him; shrouded in a black robe that blended with the night and concealed everything but death-cold eyes staring at King through an executioner's mask.
Slowly, gravely, Hopkins whispered, "No peace; no rest."
A horrible moan sounded in the night. Mike Tyson appeared, wrapped in chains with ghostly eyes and tattoos all over his face and body.
The Tyson spirit let out a frightful cry and shook its chains with such fury that King trembled violently and shivered with horror.
"Dreadful apparitions," King cried, falling to his knees. "Why do you torture me so?"
"My wealth was of no use to me," the Tyson spirit answered. "I wear the chains I forged in my life. But if the course of one's life is departed from, the end too will change. That is my message to you."
And with that, King began to weep. "During my life," he wailed, "I have seen my nobler aspirations fall off one by one until only the passion for gold engrossed me. But I will no longer be the man you have known. I swear it. I will honor Christmas and keep brotherhood and love alive in my heart the entire year. But spare me this dream; I beg of you. I cannot bear it."
And then Don King was awake, his face wet with tears. It was Christmas morning. Bright sunlight streamed into the bed chamber.
King opened the shutters, leaned out the window, and shouted to a small boy on the street below.
"You there; small boy. What day is it?"
"Why, it's Christmas, of course, sir."
"Thank God! I haven't missed it."
Glowing with good intentions, King put on his finest clothes and rushed out onto the street. "Merry Christmas" he shouted joyfully to everyone who passed by. "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas," he shouted again and again, punctuated by loud booming laughs.
And let it be said that Don King was true to his word. He became as good and honest and generous and kind a man as the world has ever seen. And under his wise leadership, boxing was reborn.
Some people snickered at the changes in King. But he heeded them not at all; for his heart was brimming with love and joy, and that was enough for him.
Award winning author Thomas Hauser can be reached at