- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

If you're anxiously waiting to buy a ticket for the 911 Mike Tyson fight scheduled for June 2 at MCI Center, you might have a longer wait than you anticipated like forever.

Because of Hasim Rahman's stunning upset over World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis Saturday night in South Africa, the future of 911 Mike's fight against David Izon at MCI is now in serious doubt. A source close to the fight yesterday said, "I don't think that fight is going to come off."

It will all come down to, of course, money, and the battle is not in the ring, but in the boardrooms of Home Box Office and Showtime, where control of the heavyweight division is at stake.

Here's what happened as a result of Rahman's fifth-round knockout of Lewis HBO, which was in control with Lewis holding two belts and considered by the public to be the recognized ruling heavyweight champion, now faces the prospect of being frozen out of the money division, all because of a stupid oversight by the network by not seeking options on Rahman's future fights.

Options are cursed by those who decry the corruption of the sport, but they are the grease for the sport's money wheels. Often, a network like HBO, which already has Lewis under contract, will make any deal with an opponent of Lewis to include options to broadcast that opponent's next two or three fights if he should somehow score an upset.

Remarkably, no one did that for Rahman. Like Lewis, who came into the fight out of shape, HBO was not prepared for a Rahman win. There is a rematch clause for Lewis in the contract, but the deal also allows Rahman to have one title defense before he would fulfill his obligation to fight Lewis again.

There is one fight, and one fight only, for Rahman to make for that one title defense 911 Mike, who is a Showtime fighter.

Rahman, the unheralded Baltimore heavyweight, earned $1.5 million for his fight against Lewis, probably four times more than he ever made for any fight purse. Without Tyson in the picture, a rematch with Lewis might bring Rahman $6 million or $7 million.

A 911 Mike fight for the WBC and IBF heavyweight titles? Rahman can earn double what he makes against Lewis.

Now if somehow 911 Mike can beat Rahman, that means Showtime will have both 911 Mike and the heavyweight championships. Home Box Office will have a boring 35-year-old British heavyweight that no one particularly cares about. And if 911 Mike is the champion, Lewis will be a much older, boring British heavyweight before he gets a chance to fight for his lost titles again.

911 Mike's people are already scrambling to make the fight against Rahman. They have been banging the drums for a fight against Lewis, but that was problematic because Lewis is an HBO fighter and 911 Mike a Showtime fighter. Neither network was about to let the other's fighter appear in such a huge pay-per-view event on the other network particularly not Showtime, which loaned 911 Mike as much as $20 million several years ago to avoid going to prison for income tax evasion.

911 Mike is already the WBC's No. 1 mandatory challenger, and in a statement released Sunday 911 Mike said, "I will fight him anywhere to make my dream of regaining the heavyweight championship a reality."

Showtime and 911 Mike will pull out all the stops to make a Rahman-Tyson fight, which means there will be no Izon fight at MCI on June 2 if they do. There is no way they would let 911 Mike go ahead with an Izon fight before he met Rahman. Anything can happen in a fight, and that anything is accentuated tenfold when it comes to 911 Mike, whose career could end at every traffic stop, let alone in the ring. They will not risk anything getting in the way of a Tyson title fight.

HBO now has to make it more lucrative for Rahman to fight Lewis next than to fight 911 Mike. It is going to exert enormous pressure on Rahman's promoter, Cedric Kushner who is in debt to HBO for helping him hang on to his biggest meal ticket, welterweight champion Sugar Shane Mosley to force his fighter to sign for a Lewis rematch immediately.

However, Rahman might consider that he has a better chance of getting both huge fights 911 Mike and Lewis if he fights 911 Mike next.

For all intents and purposes, 911 Mike is done as a fighter. His appearances in the ring since Holyfield gave him an 11-round beating in November 1996 have been a joke. The only guy who was even considered a top opponent, besides Andrew Golota, a lunatic who quit before he even had a chance to fight after two rounds last October, was Frans Botha, and Botha was beating 911 Mike on all three judges scoring cards every round before walking into a stiff right hand with about 10 seconds left in the fifth round of their January 1999 fight. Rahman is a far better fighter than Botha, and there is every reason to believe that 911 Mike would be a much easier opponent for Rahman than a focused and conditioned Lewis in a rematch.

Like Rahman did against Lewis, 911 Mike would, of course, have a puncher's chance against Rahman a pretty good puncher's chance. 911 Mike can still punch hard, and Rahman has proved he is very susceptible to the big punch he was stopped by David Tua in the 10th round in December 1998 after being hit after the bell rang as the ninth round ended with a big left hand and was blasted through the ropes with a shot by Oleg Maskev in the 10th round in November 1999.

In the end, though, the future of the heavyweight division and Washington's chances of a 911 Mike fight will be decided by who has the bigger pocketbook instead of who has the bigger punch.

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