- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

BALTIMORE Heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman denied yesterday there is any deal imminent to fight Lennox Lewis in a rematch, and sources close to the negotiations said that the talks have now turned in favor of a fight against Mike Tyson.
Rahman has been pushing his promoter and managers for a Tyson fight, sources said, and Rahman, who threw out the first pitch last night at Camden Yards before the Baltimore Orioles' game against the New York Yankees, made it clear that he not his promoter, Cedric Kushner, or his co-managers, Stan Hoffman and Steve Nelson will decide his next opponent.
"All of the decisions ultimately come down to me," Rahman said. "The managers just go out and try to get the best deal for me. They have to bring it to me, and I'll go over it, and if I feel like it's the best deal then we'll make it."
As far as the newly crowned Baltimore champion is concerned, the best deal is Tyson, whose scheduled fight against David Izon on June 2 at MCI Center is off.
"Tyson is my preference," he said. "I don't feel he has the weapons Lennox has. He's just a puncher. I've seen him be outboxed; I've seen him get beat up. Tyson is an easier fight, style-wise, than Lennox Lewis is."
The champion dismissed reports that a deal was about to be announced for a Rahman-Lewis rematch.
"There is no deal to fight Lennox," he said. "No one has presented me with one yet… . Regardless of the reports, they have to still bring any deal to me, and they haven't brought anything to me yet. I'm waiting like everyone else.
"They are pushing a Lennox rematch in front of me," Rahman said. "But we aren't anywhere right now. We're just listening. Once we finish listening to everybody's proposal, then we will make a decision. I would love to fight Mike Tyson right here in Baltimore. I don't think we will have anything done until next week."
Rahman also admitted he would consider negotiating with promoter Don King if the right deal presented itself.
"If HBO and Showtime don't come up with the right deal, then I would do business with Don King," he said.
Rahman sent the boxing world into a spin when he won the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles by knocking out Lewis in the fifth round in a stunning upset in South Africa on April 21. Because HBO, which had Lewis under a long-term contract and therefore controlled the heavyweight championship, did not have options on Rahman's future fights, that left the new champion a free agent to negotiate with anyone he wanted to.
It also opened the door for Showtime, which has Tyson under contract, to finally get the two-time champion the title shot he has sought for so long one that he has been unable to get because of the conflicts involving the networks of the two fighters, neither of which would let the other fighter appear on the competing network in the much talked about Lewis-Tyson fight that never materialized.
As a result, the control of the heavyweight division is at stake now for the two networks that are the most powerful forces in boxing. HBO and Showtime have entered into a bidding war for Rahman's next fight, with HBO reportedly offering $14 million for a Rahman-Lewis rematch as part of a multi-fight deal, and Showtime matching it for a Rahman-Tyson fight. Also, King has also offered Rahman $15 million to fight his heavyweight, World Boxing Association title-holder John Ruiz.
Complicating the future further is the controversy over a rematch clause in Rahman's contract when he signed to fight Lewis. There are at least three different signed versions of the Lewis-Rahman contract with three different versions of a rematch one that gave Lewis a rematch within 150 days of the first fight, another that said Rahman could not take a fight 60 days before the announced date of the rematch (Main Events has already issued a statement declaring Aug. 18 the rematch date, which Hoffman dismissed as having no validity), and yet another version that says any interim opponent Rahman fights would have to honor Lewis' rematch agreement if the opponent wins.
There is some conflict between Rahman, who clearly wants Tyson, and Kushner, Rahman's promoter, who fears being the target of a lawsuit by HBO and Main Events, Lewis' promoter, if they don't make the rematch with Lewis.

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