The potential re-emergence of former heavyweight champion
Mike Tyson could give the pay-per-view boxing category a devastating revenue punch in the
Tyson -- who was released from prison last week after
serving three months of a one-year sentence for a road-rage conviction -- could fight
twice this year on PPV, beginning as early as September.
With two potential Oscar De La Hoya fights on tap, as well
as a rematch between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis in the heavyweight category -- all
slated for the fourth quarter -- the industry could end the decade with the biggest
PPV-event-revenue year ever, PPV observers calculated.
Tyson, the industry's biggest PPV revenue generator, is
still on probation, and he would need court permission to fight outside of Maryland. But
sources close to the situation said that would not deter the fighter from continuing his
A Maryland judge sentenced Tyson to one year in jail in
February, after he pleaded no contest last November to assaulting two motorists following
an accident involving the fighter and his wife.
But in a surprise move, Maryland authorities released Tyson
last Monday, after an Indiana judge decided to end Tyson's probation on a 1992 rape
Sources close to the situation said the fighter could be in
the ring as early as August or September. "I would certainly hope [he'll fight
soon]," Tyson advisor Shelly Finkel said.
Published reports said Tyson's first fight could end up on
pay TV network Showtime, rather than on PPV, in an effort to re-establish the fighter as a
Tyson's last PPV bout -- a Jan. 16 match against Francois
Botha -- performed below industry expectations, although it did produce more than $33
million in revenue. The Botha bout was the first for Tyson since having his license
revoked for one year after biting Evander Holyfield's ears during their June 1997 fight.
Tyson's second fight -- potentially in November or December
-- would most likely be on PPV, offered by Showtime Event Television. Potential opponents
include George Foreman and Andrew Golota, sources said.
Cable executives believe Tyson still has significant
drawing power, despite his past problems.
"He didn't put up the numbers we're used to in his
last fight, but it was still successful," Cox Communications Inc.'s Cox Cable of San
Diego senior product manager Marty Youngman said. "We look forward to offering his
next PPV fight to our subscribers and letting the viewers decide whether they want to
watch him fight."
Boxing analyst Tony Paige also feels that Tyson may have
one or two major paydays left in his career, but he wasn't sure how subscribers would
react to the fighter's latest brush with the law.
"Tyson could make a comeback at 60 years of age and
there would be some people out there who would pay whatever price to see him," Paige
said. "But a lot of people are getting tired of the boorish behavior of athletes in
all sports, so it will be interesting to see how viewers react to him."
More important for operators, Tyson's return to PPV would
coincide with at least two other major PPV events in the fourth quarter. TVKO is expected
to distribute a Sept. 18 De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad fight, as well as a Nov. 13
Holyfield-Lewis heavyweight-championship rematch bout.
TVKO is also discussing a possible October PPV event
featuring World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion Roy
Jones Jr., as well as a December De La Hoya bout.
The combined revenues of those proposed fights could easily
surpass the record-breaking first-quarter-1999 PPV-event figures. The January Tyson-Botha,
February De La Hoya-Ike Quartey and March Holyfield-Lewis bouts combined to generate more
than $115 million in PPV revenue for the industry in the first quarter, according to SET
"There will be no shortage of product and no shortage
of revenue for the industry in the fourth quarter. TVKO alone is expected to deliver about
2 million buys and more than $100 million in revenue," TVKO senior vice president of
programming Mark Taffet said.
"For the industry, clearly, 1999 is shaping up to be a
record revenue year," he added.