LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael King wants to rekindle the world's passion for boxing, and the television mogul believes he can make it happen by putting on a show.
Spurred by his lifelong love of the sport, the executive who brought "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to national syndicated audiences spent the past several years trying to develop amateur fighters into champions.
After mixed success and a few millions spent, King is moving aggressively into professional promotion with a Hollywood flair. He is staging his first event Wednesday night at a converted airplane hangar in Santa Monica.
"I've been punched, I've been kicked, and I keep getting up," he said with a laugh.
He knows boxing promotion can be a sucker's game, but he seems fairly certain that's because only suckers were playing it. King is overflowing with ideas about how to return boxing to its golden age, and he has both the patience and wealth to determine whether he's right.
"I never expected to break even," King said. "It's not about making money. It's about showing the people how it can be."
It's also about creating a night to remember for people who still remember what boxing once was.
At the Barker Hangar near the Santa Monica airport, actor Kevin Pollak will host an eye-catching show mixing comedy between five bouts. His boxers aren't famous in the U.S., but King is confident fans and celebrities alike will be enthralled by even matchups between fighters who will mature before their eyes.
"It's exciting as hell that not everyone is going to know who these fighters are," said Pollak, also a devoted fight fan. "Because they won't forget afterward."
King's passion for boxing permeates every corner of his King Sports office in Brentwood. A larger-than-life image of Muhammad Ali looms over a cream-colored lobby surrounded by glassed-in offices where his staff works on changing the sport. King speaks of Ali with reverential zeal, noting he watched or attended almost every fight of his career.
King's first show will include a few names known to hard-core fans: middleweight Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, welterweight Chris Van Heerden and unbeaten Charles Martin, who developed into a prospect at King's All-American Heavyweights program in Carson.