Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Mike Tyson now fights to survive

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson during training in Phoenix, Arizona on July 13. Tyson will fight Danny Williams from England in Louisville, Kentucky, Friday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Mike Tyson is no longer fighting for glory or a heavyweight title.

His profligacy has forced him into indentured servitude to his debtors.

So it is no surprise that when he fights Danny Williams (31-3), a former British and Commonwealth champion on Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, the bout will be carried by Showtime on pay-per-view, where the financial upside is higher than if it were distributed on premium cable channels.

Tyson needs the money, far more than pay-per-view regulars like Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya, whose long-term contracts with HBO are recouped when cable and satellite companies sell their fights for US$40 or more per home, even if the bouts are mismatches.

Tyson apparently threw his wealth away on mansions, cars, jewelry, lawyers, alimony and child support; the estimated US$400 million he earned as the most feral boxer of his era is gone. Last year he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and last month his lawyers submitted to the US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan a plan to reorganize and pay his US$43 million in debts, US$19.4 million of it in taxes owed. A judge must still approve its terms.

The Tyson bankruptcy documents do not state that all his future fights be on pay-per-view or that he still has a lucrative future in boxing or that he will get another shot at a championship belt. But that is the route Tyson envisions.

"They are all going to be pay-per-view," Shelly Finkel, Tyson's manager, said.

Finkel, a willing dreamer in the employ of Tyson, believes that the next opponents will be better and more of an attraction than Williams, thus justifying the rationale to put the bouts on pay-per-view.

"Mentally, he wants to bring the title back," Finkel said. "He's getting older. But he's the best I've seen him in six years, and he will beat anybody he fights. Time will tell if I'm right."

The reorganization assumes that Tyson (50-4) will fight five times through November 2005 (with dispensation to stretch the fights out over two more years, when he'll be 41), an extraordinary amount of work for a boxer who has not fought in 17 months and has not beaten a great opponent since Ronald Reagan was in his second term.

To expect Tyson to fight five times over the next 16 months is absurd; to think that his withered earning power will grow to satisfy his debtors is almost crazy. Tyson has faced only eight opponents in five and a half years and lost to the only major one, Lennox Lewis, by knockout.

"Five fights is the schedule as a maybe," Finkel said. "There's no real time frame. He could fight only once a year, but he won't."

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