Another View: Holyfield-Lewis Has Wrestling Feel


Maybe boxing really is jealous of pro wrestling'sphenomenal success.

Having recently been usurped by wrestling as thepay-per-view industry's revenue champ, some industry observers secretly wonderedwhether boxing borrowed one of wrestling's scripted finishes for its March 13 EvanderHolyfield-Lennox Lewis debacle.

The heavily criticized Holyfield-Lewis draw, which shouldhave unified the heavyweight title, left even the staunchest of boxing fans wonderingwhether the fight was indeed judged fairly, or whether it was scripted in VinceMcMahon-esque style by boxing promoter Don King.

It doesn't matter that the New York State AthleticAssociation chose the two blind judges (one judge saw the same fight as millions of PPVviewers and gave Lewis the win); many boxing fans feel that King had some influenceover getting his battered client, Holyfield, a draw.

Apparently, both local and national politicians believethat there was more involved in the fight's ending than just a bad decision. TheManhattan district attorney opened a criminal investigation last week surrounding thepossibility that the fight was fixed, and moves for federal regulation of the sport willlikely pick up steam.

On the surface, given the negative post-fight press andincreased consumer wariness about the sport, the prospects for a successful rematcharen't great.

Not only was the decision unpopular, but the fight itselfdidn't exactly invoke memories of the great first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight thatit was marketed to resemble.

In fact, given Holyfield's and Lewis' past poorPPV performances when not fighting guys named Mike Tyson and George Foreman, the industryshould consider itself fortunate that the fight pulled more than 1 million buys andgrossed more than $60 million.

Yet despite boxing's ongoing attempt to kill itselfand PPV, an August or September Holyfield-Lewis rematch may generate decent business. Thereason: Controversy sells, and there's nothing else better on the horizon for PPVboxing.

By the time the media gets through bashing the decision,finishes its last interview with the flamboyant King and calls for the abolishment ofboxing, the event will have received more publicity than any fight in recent memory, sansTyson's ear-biting incident.

Yes, people were left with a bad taste because of thefight's ending, but as operators have seen time and time again, consumers also havevery short memories when it comes to the "Sweet Science." Enough fans will pay$50 to see the matter resolved once and for all.

As one friend of ours who did not see the first fight, butwho plans on buying the second, put it, "You expect this in boxing."

Plus with no major PPV-boxing event scheduled beforeSeptember, fight fans will welcome a heavyweight title fight, and King will make sure toget the right promotional message across to draw in subscribers.

The scenario works out perfectly for operators that weredesperately searching for another major PPV-boxing event in the wake of Tyson'slatest brush with the law and subsequent prison time.

But some industry observers may say that the rematch fitstoo perfectly into operators' PPV schedules -- just like pro wrestling.