Hasim Rahman's shocking knockout of heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis all but eliminated any plans for a blockbuster pay-per-view fight between Lewis and Mike Tyson this fall, but the upset may serve to invigorate an otherwise stagnant boxing category.
TVKO was busy late last week trying to negotiate a PPV rematch between Lewis and Rahman for August, while Showtime Event Television was trying to set up a potential Tyson-Rahman PPV show for late summer.
Either fight would complement several previously announced PPV matches in what could shape up as the most lucrative PPV boxing period in recent years.
Executives with both Time Warner Sports, which oversees TVKO and Home Box Office, and SET were negotiating a fall Lewis-Tyson fight before Rahman KO'd the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council heavyweight champion in the fifth round of their April 21 bout, televised by HBO. Industry observers predicted a Tyson-Lewis bout would have generated nearly $100 million in PPV revenue.
Tyson is scheduled to fight David Izon on June 2, but that fight would be postponed if a Rahman-Tyson deal can be reached, said SET executive vice president of corporate strategy and communications Mark Greenberg.
"We're in discussions now and if we're able to do it, we'll go with Tyson-Rahman," Greenberg said. "If we can't work out a deal, we'll continue with Tyson-David Izon on Showtime."
Late last week, several newspapers reported that HBO and Lewis' management team, enacting a rematch clause in the contract, had reached a deal for an Aug. 18 Lewis-Rahman rematch, but HBO said Rahman has yet to agree to the date.
Either a Rahman-Tyson or Rahman-Lewis fight would bolster a potentially strong second half of 2001 for PPV boxing. The category only generated $7.4 million during the first quarter, 29 percent below last year's numbers, according to SET estimates.
The category, however, did receive a surprise boost from TVKO's April 7 Prince Haseem Hamed-Marco Antonio Barerra brawl. The featherweight fight garnered approximately 300,000 PPV buys – well above expectations, HBO senior vice president of sports operations Mark Taffet said. About 40 percent of those purchases came from direct-broadcast satellite subscribers, he added.
TVKO has three marquee PPV events scheduled through July: a May 12 Felix Trinidad-Willam Joppy middleweight championship fight; a June 23 Oscar De La Hoya-Francisco Castillejo junior middleweight bout; and a July 28 Roy Jones Jr.-Julio Gonzalez light heavyweight title match.
In addition, the network is planning fall PPV events showcasing De La Hoya, Trinidad, and welterweight champion "Sugar" Shane Mosley, as well as a middleweight unification championship PPV event, Taffet added.