Alan Hopper, who has served as vice president of public relations for Don King since 2000, has left his position to pursue a Master’s Degree at the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies in Center City, Minn.
“I spent the best part of the last 15 years as part of the traveling circus known as Don King Productions. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I traveled the world at Don’s side and I never saw him turn down an autograph or photo. He always made work fun,” said Hopper, who turns 52 on Sept. 9.
“Nothing lasts forever, and I felt it was time for a new challenge. My mother helped found one of the first drug treatment programs for teens in my hometown in the 1970s. Then I found myself working with boxers all the way up to world champions, some of whom succumb to the perils of addiction. If I can find a way to help just one person, I will consider my new endeavor a success.”
A winner of the Boxing Writers’ Association of America’s Marvin Kohn “Good Guy” Award for 2008, Hopper said his and King’s working relationship ended amicably.
“What might surprise a lot of people is how Don reacted when I told him of my plans to go back to school,” said Hopper. “He understood and immediately offered to help me with tuition costs. That’s the kind of guy he is. Those of us who have worked for him have seen first hand how generous he can be.”
King, who turns 82 on Tuesday, concurred.
“Hey, listen, man, I love Alan. Alan’s a great guy, and he’s giving back to the community, and that’s what really counts. The rest of that stuff, man, it don’t mean nothing. They can say what they want about me,” said King, referring to any hint of acrimony with Hopper.
“It’s the way of life that really counts…We’ve been treating the effects, and not the cause, and Alan wants to be a major part in helping to change that. So now he’s going to back to school to get his PhD, or whatever it is, and helping others will give him an opportunity to give back to the community, and I think that it’s just fabulous.”
A former disk jockey who graduated from the University of Nevada at Reno with a journalism degree in 1985, Hopper became a music agent at the famed William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills, Calif.
For six years through 1995, Hopper was a personal manager helping to guide careers of notable artists including a founder of The Byrds, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Chris Hillman, when Hillman formed the Desert Rose Band.
Hopper served from 1996 to 1998 as tour publicist for Creedence Clearwater Revisited, featuring Creedence founders and Hall-of-Famers Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford as well as Elliot Easton, lead guitarist for The Cars.
In 1999, Hopper was introduced to the boxing world while serving as public relations director at the Las Vegas Hilton. Hopper worked with King, who had a multi-fight deal with the Hilton, as well as Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, in the promotion of Felix Trinidad’s victory over Oscar De La Hoya in September of that year.
“Bob Arum’s p.r. chief, Lee Samuels, had been showing me the ropes,” said Hopper. “Then they introduced me to Don during the De La Hoya vs. Trinidad mega-fight. Don liked what I did and offered me a job.”
Hopper said Samuels was his first boxing mentor.
“Alan Hopper is a dynamic person, a publicist who understands what the sport of boxing is all about and a perfect person to work with Don King,” said Samuels. “I have always enjoyed working with Alan, who is a true professional. It’s a big fight when Alan is in town.”
At least for a while, however, Hopper won’t be at ringside.
“I was always straight with Don and he was always straight with me. If anything, I owe him for all the great times and adventures I was part of,” said Hopper.
“The beauty of this is while we will no longer be working together, that doesn’t mean the friendship ends. That will last forever. That goes for everybody in boxing, too.”
Photo by David Martin Warr, Don King Productions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]