How Much More Tyson Can PPV Take?


After serving prison time for a sexual-assault conviction,earning a one-year suspension from boxing for biting Evander Holyfield's ears and gettingjailed again for a road-rage incident where he assaulted two old men, Mike Tyson returnedto the ring following each controversy as a strong pay-per-view draw.

But Tyson's most recent debacle -- the Oct. 23 fightagainst Orlin Norris that was stopped after the first round, when Tyson knocked down hisopponent after the bell -- left some PPV executives concerned that Tyson disillusionedboxing fans, and that he is losing his luster as a PPV cash cow.

"They figured out a way to keep us watching to set thestory, and the fact that [Tyson] is still getting his $800,000 -- I can't believe we wouldlet the [boxing] industry do that to us again after everything we've been through,"said one PPV executive from a major MSO. Tyson's next fight won't be a big PPV draw forsubscribers, that executive predicted.

Showtime Event Television didn't gamble on the potentialPPV audience for the Tyson-Norris bout, which was ruled a no contest after Norris injuredhis knee when Tyson's late punch dropped him to the canvas. The fight was offeredfree-of-charge to Showtime premium subscribers.

SET spokeswoman Robin Walker said the network would notrelease the Nielsen Media Research rating from the fight. SET declined to arrange aninterview with senior vice president Jay Larkin, saying that Larkin wouldn't discuss thefight until after the Nevada Athletic Commission met last Friday.

Although Tyson hit Norris after the bell rang five timesand referee Richard Steele yelled, "Break," the commission was expected to rulethe punch accidental and award Tyson his purse.

Following a string of Tyson controversies, Media GeneralInc. PPV director Ted Hodgins said he doesn't expect subscribers to be willing to shellout $49.95 to see him fight in another PPV match. "I think it's going to be difficultto sell a $50 Mike Tyson fight in the current situation," he said.

Hodgins added, though, that depending on Tyson's opponent,subscribers would probably be willing to fork over $40 to see the former heavyweightchampion box.

Tyson was featured in six of the top eight PPV fights ofall time. He drew 1.95 million buys for the Holyfield rematch, which featured the infamousear-biting incident; 1.6 million buys for his first Holyfield fight; and 1.58 million buysfor his comeback fight against Peter McNeeley.

But Tyson's last PPV fight -- the January match againstFrancois Botha -- drew estimated buys ranging from 600,000 to 750,000.