The pay-per-view boxing business took a major one-two punch
last week from which it may not recover for a long time.
PPV-boxing cash cow Mike Tyson last week sued his longtime
promoter, Don King, for $100 million, claiming that King stole millions of dollars from
Tyson's lucrative boxing purses over the past decade. The lawsuit -- combined with
the start later this month of King's federal trial on fraud charges stemming from
contract dealings with other boxers -- puts the PPV-boxing futures of both King and his
PPV partner, Showtime Event Television, in question.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan,
accused King of diverting millions of dollars from Tyson's multimillion-dollar purses
to himself. Published reports said King coerced Tyson into signing a multifight cable deal
with SET days before he was released from prison three years ago.
Although Tyson is asking for a revocation of his current
deal with King, it's unclear whether that would also sever the fighter's
relationship with Showtime. The company has said in the past that it has a multifight deal
with Tyson unrelated to his deal with King.
Showtime released a statement saying that it is
"disappointed" about the lawsuit, but it hopes that "both parties will come
to an amicable resolution" and that "Showtime is not a party to this
Nevertheless, sources close to the situation said Showtime
would be placed in an awkward position if it distributes future Tyson fights without King
-- its PPV partner -- as Tyson's promoter. Of course, Tyson still has to petition the
Nevada Athletic Commission in July to get his boxing license reinstated.
"Either way you look at it, this is an ugly addendum
to an already-disastrous PPV-boxing year," said one top 10 cable operator.
Meanwhile, the industry may have lost a potentially
lucrative Oscar De La Hoya-Pernell Whitaker fight after Whitaker checked into an
undisclosed drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation center last week, said Main Events Inc.,
Whitaker's promotion company. Whitaker tested positive for cocaine after an Oct. 17
fight against Andrei Pestraiev, and he was subsequently suspended for six months. Arguing
that the tests, which were conducted in Connecticut, were flawed, Whitaker successfully
had the suspension dropped.
The move cancels his April 25 fight against welterweight
champion Ike Quartey -- the winner of which was expected to be in line for a fall or early
winter bout with De La Hoya.
Whitaker's first fight against De La Hoya last April
generated $36 million in PPV revenues -- the highest take ever for a nonheavyweight fight.