Heralding Tyson’s Return

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Showtime PPV is optimistic that its July 30 Mike Tyson pay-per-view fight will be the springboard for a series of lucrative dates with the controversial boxer.

Tyson’s fight against unheralded heavyweight contender Danny Williams is his first since 2003, when he knocked out Clifford Etienne in one round. It also comes more than two years after former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis knocked out “Iron Mike” in what remains the most highest-grossing PPV event of all time, at some $103 million in revenue.

In Demand is on board to distribute the fight, which will be offered in HDTV. DirecTV Inc. executives said the satellite company is “in negotiations to carry the event.”

Showtime sports and event programming senior vice president and general manager Ken Hershman believes that Tyson — despite his inactivity and his checkered past — still retains enough appeal among boxing fans to generate significant PPV buys. The bout carries a suggested retail price of $44.95.

“I still think there’s a lot of interest in the public to see him. Everyone is being realistic: We’re not going to do 1.9 million buys, but we’ll do well,” said Hershman, who would not make a buy-rate projection.

In Demand director of event programming Marshall Zelaznick is also confident the fight will attract hard-core and casual boxing fans alike: “Tyson draws attention and press, so we’re cautiously optimistic that the fight will perform well.”

Showtime is facing a few handicaps in touting the bout. Not only does it have just a few weeks to effectively promote the Louisville, Ky.-based event, it is plugging a rare Friday night date, due in part to the already scheduled July 31 Erik Morales-Carlos Hernandez PPV boxing event, distributed by HBO Pay-Per-View.

Nevertheless, Showtime will ramp things up over the next two weeks, with commercial schedules secured on both broadcast and cable networks, plus print ads in select national newspapers and some radio spots, according to Hershman. Showtime was also expected to promote the fight on its July 15 Showbox card.

“It’s a nice schedule for the short time frame that we had,” he said.

Showtime would not reveal specifics of the rate card, but sources said operators generating under a 1% buy-rate would receive 45% of the split, while operators producing 1% or more would split revenues evenly with Showtime.

The upcoming card is the first of a new exclusive multifight agreement between Tyson and Showtime. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Hershman said, Tyson is expected back in the ring sometime this fall.

Given the mediocre state of the heavyweight division, Hershman said a committed Tyson could eventually reclaim the heavyweight title and resurrect the sluggish PPV-boxing category.

“There’s always a lot of hope that he’ll reclaim his glory,” Zelaznick added. “He’s great for the category.”

A fall Tyson fight would add to an already promising lineup of shows, notably HBO PPV’s Sept. 18 Oscar De La Hoya-Bernard Hopkins middleweight unification fight and an Oct. 2 Felix Trinidad-Ricardo Mayorga middleweight matchup.

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