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Tyson vs. Lewis deal in the works

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) -- A fight between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis is in the works, although TV and boxing executives warned the deal wasn't done.

Rival cable networks holding rights for Tyson and Lewis' bouts are negotiating, and Jay Larkin of Showtime said Tuesday that chances for an agreement by the end of the year were 50-50. He refused to characterize the two sides as ''close'' to a deal.

''You're not close until you're done,'' said Larkin, senior vice president and executive producer of Showtime, which televises Tyson's fights. ''Unless papers are signed, it doesn't matter how close you are.''

Shelly Finkel, who manages Tyson, agreed with Larkin's assessment about a fight between the two former heavyweight champions.

''There's nothing until we have a deal and right now we don't have a deal,'' Finkel said. ''We're talking seriously and we're looking for something before the end of the year, but there are so many contingencies. I thought we were close a month ago and it didn't happen.''

Late Monday, Lewis' camp distributed a news release from London announcing that Showtime and HBO, which holds Lewis' rights, had agreed to two fights, the first on Dec. 8.

''That press release was, at its most generous, premature,'' Larkin said.

Ray Stallone, a spokesman for HBO, refused comment on the release.

The news release said HBO and Showtime had agreed on Sunday to share pay-per-view and delayed broadcasts of a Lewis-Tyson fight and rematch. That has been a major issue in negotiations between the networks.

Larkin has testified for the last two days in a New York federal court where Lewis is suing for an immediate rematch with IBF-WBA champion Hasim Rahman, who won the titles when he knocked out Lewis in the fifth round on April 21 in South Africa.

Judd Burstein, a lawyer for Lewis in the Rahman lawsuit, called reports that a Tyson-Lewis fight had been set ''premature and inaccurate.''

Larkin said Rahman is part of a three-pronged Showtime option for Tyson this year.

''You will see Tyson before the end of the year, probably in August, against one of three opponents,'' Larkin said. ''Either Rahman, Lewis or an opponent to be named.''

The third category includes Shannon Briggs and David Izon. Meanwhile, Izon is already signed for an Aug. 5 fight in Beijing against Rahman as part of a pay-per-view doubleheader, with WBA champion John Ruiz facing ex-champ Evander Holyfield. That match could be in danger if the court rules for Lewis.

Final arguments in the case will be heard on Friday.

Still, Larkin said, Lewis-Tyson is the compelling attraction for the heavyweight division, even with no title at stake.

''It's the fight everybody wants to see,'' he said. ''It all comes back to Tyson.''



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