Date controversies and potential legal problems surrounding
promoter Don King could KO the proposed Nov. 13 Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis
Sources said Time Warner Sports, which would distribute the
November event, wants King to sign a waiver releasing the promoter from actively
participating in the rematch if he is indicted on any boxing-related charges specific to
the first event, held March 13 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Both New York and federal investigators have probed
potential illegalities surrounding the fight's controversial draw decision. Most observers
felt that Lewis won the match easily.
TVKO senior vice president Lou DiBella said late last week
that there were still "some major issues that have to be resolved" before a deal
can be reached for the event, but he would not elaborate.
But Greg Fritz, spokesman for Don King Productions, said
Time Warner Sports is putting roadblocks in the way of a fight that both boxers have
already signed deals for.
"The ironic part in all of this is that both fighters
have agreed to terms," Fritz said. "Don has been under indictment before and
continued to promote fights. In fact, some of his most successful events have come while
he was indicted."
The issue was further complicated last Friday when the FBI
raided King's offices, allegedly as part of an ongoing investigation of the International
Boxing Federation boxing-sanctioning body, according to published reports.
A federal grand jury has been investigating the IBF for
several months for allegedly accepting kickbacks from boxing executives to secure higher
rankings for fighters.
King said in a prepared statement that the raid was
"all nonsense. Had they asked for the documents, I would have given them to them. I
have nothing to hide."
Fritz said that despite the raid, King will continue to be
involved in promoting boxing events, including Holyfield-Lewis. "Don King is in the
business of promoting fights, and we haven't missed a beat," he added.
Meanwhile, an issue over conflicting events may further
plague the event. Showtime Event Television announced in March that it was distributing a
Nov. 13 Hawaiian Super Prix auto-racing event, which the company said it cleared with
Showtime claimed that while it has a deal done for its
event, which cannot be moved to another date, TVKO has yet to complete an agreement for
Nevertheless, Showtime added, Viewer's Choice is trying to
move its event off its highly penetrated Viewer's Choice 1 channel to the less penetrated
Viewer's Choice 2 and Viewer's Choice 5 services to accommodate the Holyfield-Lewis
Only 23 million addressable households can access Viewer's
Choice 2 and 5, while Viewer's Choice 1 clears more than 29 million households.
"We came to Viewer's Choice first about the date, so
Viewer's Choice had the option to say to [TVKO] that there would be a conflict. The real
question and concern [for distributors] is what are the rules in setting dates for
events," Showtime Event Television executive vice president of corporate strategy and
communications Mark Greenberg said.
"We're trying to build the category, but you can't do
that when you have two potential paydays going head-to-head," Greenberg added.
But TVKO general manager Dan York said the company is
"optimistic that the fight will be made on Nov. 13," and he expects it to be
"one of the biggest fights in PPV history."
Viewer's Choice executives would not comment on the matter.
The Holyfield-Lewis rematch would generate significantly
more revenue than the very niche auto-racing event. The first Holyfield-Lewis event
generated more than $61 million in PPV revenue, although the fight's decision was shrouded
Viewer's Choice faces a similar date issue in July with the
Woodstock '99 concert and a World Wrestling Federation event. The network decided to run
the July 25 WWF event on Viewer's Choice 1, while the three-day Woodstock '99 event will
run on Viewer's Choice 2 and 5.