Cable operators are anxiously awaiting the fate of Mike
Tyson' boxing career as the New Jersey Athletic Commission ponders whether to
reinstate the boxing license of the pay-per-view industry's biggest draw.
The New Jersey Commission has up to 45 days to render a
decision on Tyson's future after the ex-champion last week re-applied for his boxing
license. The commission, however, is expected to go into a closed door session this
Thursday, and may render a decision as early as next week.
Tyson's license was revoked last July by the Nevada
Athletic Commission after Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear during their June 1997
fight. While Nevada banned Tyson for life, the fighter was allowed to re-apply for his
license after one year.
But instead of applying before the Nevada commission,
Tyson's handlers believed that he had a better chance of getting his license and
fighting in New Jersey. Tyson, however, may have jeopardized his chances after displaying
some anger and cursing after being asked repeatedly about his ear-biting incident with
Holyfield. Industry observers though, believe Tyson's outburst will have little
effect on the decision.
"It shouldn't hurt him; he was more upset at
himself and he wasn't directing it at anyone [in the courtroom]," said Shelly
Finkel, boxing advisor to Tyson.
If New Jersey restores Tyson's license, Finkel said
that Tyson could fight in a PPV event sometime in November or December. Showtime Networks
Inc., which has four fights left on a multi-fight deal with Tyson, would distribute the
Showtime would only say that it "hopes that Mike Tyson
is re-licensed in an appropriate manner."
For operators, Tyson's return in 1998 could salvage
what has been thus far a disastrous year for PPV boxing revenues. Most operators are well
below PPV event revenue projections for 1998, even though PPV wrestling events have
performed well above expectations.
And with no major PPV boxing events scheduled for the rest
of the year, the industry is poised to record the lowest PPV revenue total since the early
"Many of our affiliates were hoping for a major boxing
match in 1998," said Joe Boyle, vice president, corporate communications for
Viewer's Choice, "and I would believe that a Tyson fight would be welcome news
in terms of the potential that he has to drive buys."