After years of dealing exclusively with fight promoter Don
King, Showtime Event Television will distribute a May pay-per-view boxing card from rival
promoter Bob Arum.
While Showtime executives said the company would continue
to distribute King-promoted cards, it will also listen to other promoters presenting
potential PPV-boxing events.
Arum's Top Rank Inc. will promote a June 26 fight
featuring World Boxing Association bantamweight champion Johnny Tapia via SET, Showtime
Sports and Event Programming vice president Jay Larkin said. Tapia will take on Paulie
The fight will be the first PPV event that Top Rank has
distributed on SET since the mid- 1980s. The company has distributed most of its PPV
events through SET rival TVKO.
Larkin said the network's prior relationship with
Tapia also helped in getting a distribution deal with Top Rank. "It was very much a
part of Top Rank wanting to work with us as it was Tapia wanting to fight on
Showtime," Larkin said.
"Tapia had fought on Showtime before, so it presented
an opportunity for us to work with them," Top Rank director of PPV distribution Mike
Malitz said. "It will be a good learning experience for us to work with someone else
on PPV boxing."
Showtime, however, will continue to work with King on
future bouts, Larkin said. In fact, King is scheduled to promote two Showtime pay TV cards
in May and June.
King hasn't promoted an SET PPV show since the March
1998 Julio Cesar Chavez-Miguel Angel Gonzalez bout.
King was the promoter for most of SET's PPV fights
featuring former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, but Tyson's fight against Francois
Botha in January was promoted by America Presents.
"We have a healthy PPV business that needs to be fed
[events]," Larkin said. "This was a very opportunistic deal, but we are
certainly talking to all other promoters."
Some boxing observers believe that the relationship between
Showtime and King, which dates back to 1991, has been strained by King's recent
dealings with Showtime rival Time Warner Sports.
King renewed past ties with Time Warner by distributing
both a Feb. 22 Felix Trinidad-Pernell Whitaker fight and a March 13 Evander
Holyfield-Lennox Lewis fight via Time Warner's Home Box Office pay TV and TVKO PPV
The Tapia event, which will retail for $29.95, also
features a match between popular boxer Eric "Butterbean" Esch and Peter
McNeeley, Mike Tyson's first opponent after his release from jail in 1995.
In addition, Steve Johnston will defend his World Boxing
Council lightweight championship against top contender Aldo Rios.