SET Steps In for Rainbow

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The topsy-turvy world of pay-per-view boxing continued its roller-coaster ride last week.

Picking up the pieces left by Rainbow Media Group Inc., Showtime Event Television will now partner with boxing promoter Don King to distribute King's Aug. 4 heavyweight pay-per-view fight card from China.

Meanwhile, tarnished PPV-boxing "Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya proved he can still command an audience. He drew a strong 375,000 to 400,000 buys for his June 23 super-welterweight championship fight against Javier Castillejo.

SET will act as a "consultant" to King's Aug. 4 PPV event, highlighted by the rubber match between Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz. A SET spokesman said the PPV company would help "facilitate the distribution deal with In Demand," but stopped short of saying SET would finance the live telecast from Bejing.

Sources close to the situation said King's DK Productions outfit would foot the bill for distributing the event. Representatives from the company could not be reached for comment.

In Demand senior vice president of programming Dan York said the PPV network has reached a distribution agreement for the fight, which will carry a suggested retail price of $44.95.

SET steps in for Rainbow, which was set to distribute and promote the event with King; the two parties had scheduled a June 26 press conference to confirm the arrangement. But Rainbow pulled out June 22, citing an inability to settle on deal terms.

"We spoke to Don King and told him that it wasn't the right deal for Rainbow," said a company spokeswoman.

The fight would have been Rainbow parent Cablevision Systems Corp.'s first distribution and promotional involvement in a PPV event since the ill-fated 1992 "Olympic Triplecast."

Rainbow's decision came a day after U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Cedarbaum in New York ruled that heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman — who knocked out Lennox Lewis to win the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles April 12 and was scheduled to appear on the China card — must honor a rematch clause and fight Lewis next.

The same judge last week granted King promotional rights to Rahman, settling a lawsuit brought against King by former Rahman promoter Cedric Kushner.

King, however, will have to fork over a portion of the promotional fee from a Lewis-Rahman fight to Kushner.

TVKO's June 23 De La Hoya-Castillejo bout garnered a surprising 375,000 PPV buys. Given De La Hoya's yearlong absence from PPV — and the relatively unknown status of Castillejo — the fight performed above expectations, Home Box Office senior vice president of sports operations Mark Taffet said.

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