The pay-per-view industry received a double dose of
optimistic news last week concerning the lucrative heavyweight-boxing division.
The much-anticipated Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis
heavyweight-unification bout is close to being finalized, as boxing promoter Don King and
TVKO are negotiating a deal for a late-February or early March event.
Meanwhile, the Nevada Athletic Commission is expected to
decide today (Oct. 19) whether to reinstate former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson's
boxing license. Tyson is expected to fight in a major PPV event sometime in December,
whether he has his license or not, but sources close to the situation were confident that
he will be allowed to fight in the United States.
After several months of on-and-off negotiations,
representatives from the Lewis and Holyfield camps were close to reaching a deal for a PPV
fight -- scheduled for either Feb. 27, March 6, or March 13 -- according to cable and
TVKO, which holds an exclusive television agreement with
Lewis, would distribute the fight. Holyfield has fought his last four bouts on Showtime or
on Showtime Networks Inc.'s PPV arm, Showtime Event Television.
Dan York, vice president and general manager for TVKO,
said, "We're happy to hear that progress has been made. It's good to see
that good faith is being exhibited in the negotiations. We need to sit down with the
parties and review the details before we can confirm anything."
Representatives from Showtime would not comment on the
If it happens, Holyfield-Lewis would be one of the biggest
non-Tyson heavyweight PPV events ever. While neither fighter has drawn big PPV audiences
by himself, industry observers predicted that a bout between World Boxing Council champion
Lewis and World Boxing Organization and International Boxing Federation champion Holyfield
could generate close to 1 million buys.
"It would be a terrific fight to offer to our
subscribers," one system PPV executive said, "but I'll believe it when I
see the deal signed by both fighters."
Indeed, the two boxers were expected to meet in the ring
this year, but they couldn't come to terms over the bout's purse. This past
July, TVKO offered Holyfield $20 million to fight Lewis, but Holyfield upped the ante to
This time around, King is reported to have reached an
agreement with Lewis' promoter, Panos Eliades, and he is now negotiating with
Holyfield to make the fight.
Meanwhile, operators were hopeful that the NAC will
reinstate Tyson's boxing license after a commission-approved group of psychologists
and neurologists reported last week that Tyson -- while still in need of therapy -- is fit
to fight again.
The report, released by the commission last Tuesday, showed
that Tyson is a "low risk" to repeat his biting incident, perpetrated against
Holyfield in their June 1997 fight.
If the commission reinstates Tyson's license, it would
set up a Dec. 5 PPV event against a yet-to-be-named opponent, boxing sources said. If the
commission rejects Tyson's license application, sources said, the fighter would most
likely fight overseas in December or January.
Several cable operators, however, would not comment on
whether they would distribute a Tyson PPV event that does not have the blessing of a
U.S.-based athletic association. Tele-Communications Inc. has already gone on record
saying that it would not distribute a Tyson PPV event under such circumstances.