Showtime Mulls Future Tyson Opponents


After generating fewer buys than expected for its Jan. 16
Mike Tyson-Francois Botha pay-per-view event, Showtime is carefully looking over a list of
potential Tyson opponents for its proposed April 24 bout.

The network is examining such opponents as former
heavyweight champion Michael Moorer, as well as contenders Lou Savarese and Shannon
Briggs, for Tyson's second fight in his latest comeback attempt, said Jay Larkin,
senior vice president of Showtime Sports and Event Programming.

The network dismissed several rumored fighters with name
recognition, such as Donovan "Razor" Ruddock and Buster Douglas -- who gave
Tyson his first loss -- due to their deteriorated skills. Showtime also downplayed Axel
Schulz as a potential opponent.

"We have not taken his name off the list, but we have
identified some problems with Axel Schulz," Larkin said. "He's not a
household name, and he lost to Botha."

Showtime is in a difficult position regarding Tyson's
next fight: Several cable operators are concerned about the potential performance of the
April 24 Tyson event without a marquee opponent.

Much of the industry was disappointed with the 650,000 to
750,000 buys generated by the Tyson-Botha event, even though the fight was the biggest
event in the last 19 months, generating more than $33 million.

"Tyson certainly needs to step up in the class of
opponent for his next PPV event," said one PPV executive, who wished to remain

At the same time, Tyson isn't ready for the top names
in the PPV division. He looked very rusty against Botha before his one-punch knockout of
the journeyman, and he needs several tuneup fights before he can challenge for the title.

"Tyson's not any less formidable, but he's
more vulnerable than he's been in the past," Larkin said. "If the industry
and the world are saying that they only want to see fights on the Tyson-Holyfield level, I
don't know how you build and support a category over time with one fight."

But Ted Hodgins, PPV manager for Media General Cable,
believes that Tyson's next fight will do substantially better than last month's,
regardless of the opponent.

"I think that people who saw the fight saw a good
fight, and I believe that for the next fight, you'll see a dramatic increase,"
he said.

Larkin added that Showtime will have more time to market
the next fight than the three weeks that were allotted to Tyson-Botha. The network is also
planning a stronger undercard.