Don King is “normal” in name alone. The boxing promoter is one of the most confident, sensational and quote-worthy men in the history of the sport. Perhaps best known for his work with Mike Tyson, Don King remains very much in the game with today’s hottest boxers, but this week will quite literally be “in the game” for the first time, as 2K Sports releases Don King Presents Prizefighter for Xbox 360.
Ever the promoter, Don King carved some time from his busy schedule to answer our questions about his first foray into gaming and explain why he thinks his game will end up being “the greatest.” Not surprisingly, what came out of our conversation was promotional, sensational, verbose and, on occasion, not all that coherent. But good Lord was it a unique experience. Don King was joined by former champion Larry Holmes and, to fill in the game’s details, executive producer Matthew Seymour. As you’ll see below, King deferred to Seymour for the first few volley of questions. Then the gloves came off.
For those who aren’t familiar with Don King Presents Prizefighter, can you give us a quick overview of the game and what it offers?
Matthew Seymour: One of the things we wanted to do was differentiate ourselves from the competition. [In our game], we really focus on the dramatic experience via Career Mode. We’re telling the story through a live-action sports documentary that will take about 15 hours, where you are actually the star and subject of this documentary. Trainers, ex-girlfriends, cut men etc. are all talking about you as if you were the star. We’re actually surprised nobody has done this before in a game, because we see it on NBC and ESPN and all sorts of TV programs. So we have this massive Career Mode and an Exhibition Mode, so you can play your friends on the sofa, and we have some pretty robust multiplayer modes. The gameplay is much more responsive and fast than what most people have seen before.
How much as Don King been involved in the dev process?
Seymour: We met with Don King three days straight, spending hours upon hours with him. It really began with hearing a lot of stories from Don…. We sat around and just exchanged stories and favorite moments in boxing history and tried to throw them into a kettle and figure out how we were going to use this stuff in the game. We also showed him work throughout the development cycle, and he was throwing out ideas about which of his boxers should be in the game and how it should unfold, so there was a lot of back and forth about that stuff. I can’t count how many times I’ve been on the phone with him or in his office in Florida.
What was the hardest thing to implement when working with him?
Seymour: It was all these stories. It was all this stuff. I mean, Don King has been promoting for more than 30 years now, so it was like “how do you implement all these fantastic stories?” Some of them were a little too funny or too crazy, dealing with boxers’ wives or girlfriends — some of those were a bit salacious and things we couldn’t include unless we got an “M” or “AO” rating.
How did other games’ concepts, like those in Fight Night and the upcoming Facebreaker, contribute to what you’re doing?
Seymour: Fight Night was a fantastic launch title, but they kinda missed it. You can’t get everything right the first time you go for it, and they were a bit short when it came to the career mode. So we knew we could deliver that and attract a lot of people…so we focused a lot on that and the gameplay. When it comes to Facebreaker, with all due respect, that’s not a boxing game. It’s a fighter than has elements of boxing, and it looks like it could be a lot of fun, but it’s not a boxing game. 2K Sports is all about the integrity of the sport, and part of that is having this career. In Don King Presents Prizefighter, we cover what goes on inside and outside the ring … because that’s boxing.
[Don King joins the conversation]
Don King: This game exemplifies life…. [Nothing in it is] sensationalized, because boxing is sensational. This is real life. When you’ve got a boxer that’s just not up to his skill, when it gets down to guns and guts and God, that is what you have here: you have a living example of the true attestation of the American Dream. You’re living a tried-and-true life in this game. You’re seeing the consequences or the rewards of your actions. What you have here is what we have lived. This is your game, this is the people’s game.
Is there anything you wish you could’ve implemented in this game that didn’t make the cut?
Don King: The game itself is the emulation and imitation of life, and that’s what makes my game unique. You’re talking to tried-and-true representatives of boxing. You are getting the pain, the struggles, the joys of the entire sport. That’s what makes this game so sensational, because we’re delivering a game based on what happens. It’s not like we’re pontificating about something that a book you read said happened; this is about the struggle and the progress and being able to be disciplined and focused and committed. It’s about saying “yes I can” when everyone else is saying “no you can’t.” This is the truth…and the truth will set you free. From the ashes of the Phoenix, you rise again. This is reality, not hope or aspiration or ambition. It’s much more than just knocking a guy out. We’re compiling the lessons of life in a game, we’re not giving you a prognostication or speculation about what you wish it could be; you’re viewing what it is and has been and will be. This game will beat any other game, because it’s the game of life. What you see is what you get. At the end of the day, victory is ours, because we have risen from the squalor and are making a game that works for you and [helps you] recognize the problem before you. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. You can’t make excuses. Certainly the hand you’ve been dealt is an unfair hand, but what are you going to do about it?
OK…. Mr. Holmes, with all of what Mr. King just said, how much do you think Don King Presents Prizefighter is realistic in regards to what goes on in and out of the ring?
Larry Holmes: A lot of it is done for drama and entertainment, but I haven’t played the game, so I can’t tell you much about it. But if it simulates Larry Holmes, I’ll tell you it’ll be one helluva game. Whoever plays the game is gonna want to be me, because my record speaks for itself.
Well presuming it mimics real life, what can players look forward to in terms of the hardest part of being a boxer outside the ring?
Larry Holmes: Keeping your cool, because there are so many people saying you can’t do this, can’t do that. People were telling me I couldn’t beat Muhammad Ali or Gerry Cooney. [Cooney] was the “White Hope,” and [white people] were betting heavy on Gerry Cooney, and that made me angry, because I was [boxing] before him, and that kinda makes you mad. But I got over all of that and did what I had to do. That’s the hardest thing about this game, that you need to keep your cool and do the things that you need to do.
So if you needed to fight one current boxer, who would it be?
Larry Holmes: George Foreman. I don’t know why Don King can’t put it together. Actually, I do know why: George Foreman is scared. He should’ve fought me, rather than people he just knew he could beat.
And with that, the bell rang and our interview ended. TKO? Hardly. It seemed like everyone in the room was just getting warmed up. But promotions are promotions, as Don King well knows, and a promotion is designed to lead into the main event. That main event, Don King Presents Prizefighter, ships tomorrow for Xbox 360, so keep your eyes peeled.