Legendary boxing promoter Don King has been synonymous with some of the greatest fighters in the past 40 years, including Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson, just to name a few. But with that same fame comes criticism—the King name is not one that is celebrated among boxing fans or sports fans worldwide.

Promoter Don King stands next to former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard during Muhammad Ali's Jenazah, a traditional Islamic Muslim service, in Freedom Hall, Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Promoter Don King stands next to former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard during Muhammad Ali’s Jenazah, a traditional Islamic Muslim service, in Freedom Hall, Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

“The biggest misconception of my father is he stole money from his athletes,” said Deborah King, the daughter of Don King. “He helped make more millionaires than anybody I know. They need to learn the facts before they will accuse somebody of taking advantage of somebody. He helped a lot of people and they tend to overlook that.”

Deborah King has embarked on her own journey to help people through her drug/substance rehabilitation practice, Limitless Life Recovery, geared toward entertainers and athletes. King is a recovering addict and has been clean for 12 years. After beating her addiction, she was inspired to help others defeat addiction, but wanted to stay in the sports and entertainment field.

King grew up around legends like Ali and Foreman, the reason for her passion for sports. She said she considered the late Ali her “uncle” and stated that she was very close to her mother, Henrietta King. Eventually, she became a consultant for her father’s promotion company.

Deborah’s new endeavor is to help clean the King family name.

“I’m very proud of my name, protective of my name, and I want my name to mean something,” she said. “I have to be a person of integrity, character, and have value that I wouldn’t mind people seeing in me.”

King is the new spokesperson for the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, a group that searches for alternative ways to handle drug offenders instead of incarceration. The African-American community is disproportionately affected by the sale and abuse of drugs, and King’s goal is to help people realize that “this is not who we are as people; this is just what we do.”

White pro athletes such as NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel have proven that drug addiction is not just a “Black thing.” The NFL has suspended Manziel for substance abuse, continuing a downward spiral that King is familiar with. When she was going through her rehabilitation, she remembers when her name popped up across the newswire in connection with her cocaine addiction. She knew that being a part of a prestigious family and the daughter of the biggest boxing promoter in the world meant that the media attention was inevitable.

“Being in a celebrity status, you’re expected to perform and behave at a higher level than a regular person, so you put a mask on to try to shield that side of you from the American people,” she said. “But addiction has a way of breaking all barriers and it will expose you.”

King said 350 people die each day because of addiction. She knows firsthand that recovery is very hard, but she believes the most important thing to have is faith—both spiritual faith and faith in one’s self. “Without faith, defeating addiction is a longshot,” she said.

In Manziel’s case, King said her program would help him try to be honest with himself, saying that the first step is defeating denial. The addiction that Manziel is suffering from is causing him to be angry at the people that want to help him, such as his father, King believes. While Manziel may think that his drug and alcohol usage is only for partying, King says that he is not able to see that he is addicted and does not want to disappoint the love ones around him, causing him to show anger towards them—a major problem in active addiction.

King said her ultimate goal is to build a rehabilitation center named after her mother, The Henrietta King Wellness Center. Just like her father, Deborah is passionate about helping others succeed—except her fighters are battling a beast that is always looking for a rematch.
“The reason why I wanted my niche to be athletes and entertainers is because that was the lifestyle that I grew up in, got addicted in, and found recovery in but I’ll help anyone,” King said.