Jury Acquits King; Lewis Still Waits

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

New York -- The pay-per-view industry received a split
decision last week concerning the immediate future of boxing.

Boxing promoter Don King was acquitted last Thursday of
charges that he defrauded an insurance company out of $350,000. The verdict means that
King is free to develop more boxing events for Showtime Networks Inc. and for PPV.

The industry, however, was dealt a minor blow when a
potential Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis heavyweight-unification fight was stymied after
Holyfield increased his asking price by $5 million over Time Warner's initial $20
million guarantee.

Meanwhile, operators are waiting to see whether suspended
former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson will apply for his boxing license this week, a
little more than one year after the Nevada Athletic Commission revoked it when he bit
Holyfield during a June 1997 bout.

The King acquittal in New York marked the second time that
the promoter has been tried on charges that he cheated Lloyd's of London out of
$350,000 in training expenses for a

canceled 1991 bout. The first trial, in 1995, ended in a
hung jury.

King, however, still has several lawsuits pending with a
number of his fighters. Tyson is suing King to get out of his contract. And King is suing
International Boxing Federation welterweight champion Felix Trinidad, who signed with
Showtime rival Time Warner Sports last month.

Nevertheless, King's acquittal was met with enthusiasm
from Showtime, which partnered with King to produce its pay TV and PPV events.

Several potential Showtime fights that had been held up
because of the trial will now get the green light. "We're looking at a very
active fall," said Jay Larkin, senior vice president, sports and event programming
for Showtime.

One mega-fight featuring one of King's biggest draws,
Holyfield, may not take place, however. Time Warner is cautiously optimistic that it can
reach a deal with King and Holyfield -- the IBF and World Boxing Association heavyweight
champion -- to fight World Boxing Council champion Lewis late in the fall.

But Lou DiBella, senior vice president of programming for
Time Warner Sports, said, "The money's not there" to give Holyfield $25
million.

"Hopefully, something can be worked out," he
added.

Operators would really like Tyson to return by year-end. He
is expected to go before the Nevada Athletic Commission this week to apply for his
license, sources close to the situation said.

If Tyson gets his license back, sources said, he could
fight as early as October or November. Representatives from Tyson's camp could not be
reached for comment.

If the commission denies Tyson's request, he would
have to wait another year before reapplying.

Related