As pay-per-view managers expected a decent payday from last
Saturday's heavyweight championship bout, they also caught a break March 5, when Mike
Tyson averted more prison time in Indiana.
Tyson -- a PPV meal ticket capable of generating 1 million
buys per fight -- is still serving time in Maryland on an assault conviction in February.
But he could have also been forced to serve time in Indiana for violating terms of his
probation on a 1992 rape conviction.
Instead, under a deal worked out between a Maryland
prosecutor and Tyson's lawyer, the boxer will have 60 days added to the one-year
sentence that he is serving in Montgomery County, Md.
Last week, Shelly Finkel, Tyson's manager, said he
wouldn't comment on when he thought Tyson might be able to fight again.
"It's just too much speculation," he said.
Officials at Showtime Event Television, which carries
Tyson's PPV fights, also wouldn't comment on or speculate when the next Tyson
event might be scheduled.
But the arithmetic is basic -- 60 days is a lot less than
the three years that Tyson could have received for violating probation. The extra time
could reportedly be as little as 30 days with credit for good behavior.
Maryland officials reportedly have said that Tyson will
serve at least eight months. The state also has a work-release program, under which Tyson
might be eligible to train or fight.
"It's definitely a positive," one PPV
promoter said of the latest Tyson news.
It appears that the best-case scenario for PPV managers
would be one Tyson fight before the end of the year.
Cable did get one Tyson fight in this year -- against
Francois Botha Jan. 16. It drew an estimated 700,000 to 750,000 buys -- well below
Tyson's usual standard, and little more than one-half of the 1.3 million buys
generated by Tyson's comeback fight against Peter McNeeley in 1994.
But the good news is that PPV managers have other strong
fights this year, including last Saturday's scheduled heavyweight-unification bout
between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.
Tickets for that fight, in New York's Madison Square
Garden, sold out quickly, and TVKO, the PPV arm of Time Warner Inc.'s Home Box
Office, promoted the event heavily.
Finkel's one comment last week was that the
Holyfield-Lewis fight, which was promoted by Don King, was "great for the
Oscar De La Hoya's Feb. 13 defeat of welterweight Ike
Quartey generated about $27 million following the $30 million Tyson-Botha bout, so the
industry is already ahead of last year's $40 million take from PPV boxing.
Wrestling events have also steadily grown in popularity,
minimizing the industry's reliance on Tyson, and the concert category has improved,
The hit to cable operators will depend on how aggressively
they budgeted for Tyson's comeback this year.
Operators offered mixed views on how Tyson's
additional prison time will affect them this year.
While Charter Communications had budgeted for three or four
Tyson fights, for example, Cable One was more conservative.
We learned that we don't aggressively budget PPV
boxing because we can't count on it," Jerry McKenna, vice president of strategic
marketing for Cable One, said last month, after Tyson was sentenced the first time.
"I'm hoping that some of the other heavyweight fighters have good years."
Media General Cable said it would focus its efforts on De
La Hoya and on the Holyfield-Lewis fight.
"Whatever fills the void has to make up $1
million," Ted Hodgins, director of PPV for Media General, said last month.