LAS VEGAS -- Perhaps the most telling statistic after more than eight hours of boxing, including five championship bouts that featured two heavyweight title fights, was that only 8,167 spectators were willing to pay between $50 and $500 to witness promoter Don King's ring marathon in the Caesars Palace parking lot Saturday night.
It was as if hard-core boxing fans were saving their money for Mike Tyson's comeback in late summer, an event that promises to put new life into boxing, particularly the near-dormant heavyweight division.
Tyson elected not to attend the show, but sightings of him on shopping sprees through several Las Vegas malls last week created more of a stir than any of the combatants' pre-fight news conferences.
But if the former champion bothered to watch the heavyweight action Saturday night, it only would have bolstered his confidence that regaining the title will not require unusual dedication.
When one-time sparring partner Oliver McCall won a piece of the heavyweight crown last September by upsetting Lennox Lewis, boxing experts surmised that he merely would serve as a caretaker until Tyson shook his ring rust from serving three years in prison.
And McCall looked every bit the journeyman in struggling to win a close 12-round decision over Larry Holmes, 45, who announced his retirement after a fourth unsuccessful attempt to regain his crown.
Before making his first World Boxing Council title defense, McCall said he had prepared himself to fight the Holmes of 1978, the year he began his seven-year reign as heavyweight king by whipping Ken Norton.
In fact, had Holmes still possessed the speed and stamina of 1978, he would have made quick work of McCall, who needed to win two of the last three rounds to save his title. A still-powerful jab and experience were almost enough for Holmes to beat a man 16 years younger who was simply stronger at the finish.
"McCall let Holmes dictate the whole fight. Only Larry's age kept him from winning," said Frank Bruno, likely McCall's next opponent.
In the other heavyweight match, Bruce Seldon offered Tyson another championship option after stopping shopworn ex-champion Tony Tucker to win the vacant World Boxing Association title that had been stripped from George Foreman.
Ringside doctor Flip Homansky ordered the bout halted after the seventh round because of damage to Tucker's badly swollen left eye.
King joined in Tucker's protest, and a rematch is possible. But it is not a fight the public likely will demand.
"I don't think Tyson has to fear either of them," said Holmes' trainer, Don Turner. "In fact, I think Foreman could knock out both Seldon and McCall. They're strong, but one-dimensional fighters who haven't learned to think in the ring."
The fight the crowd and pay-per-view audience probably will best remember from Saturday was the one in which the winner, Dominican super-welterweight Luis Santana, was carried from the ring on a stretcher -- again.
For the second time in five months, "Terrible" Terry Norris was disqualified by the referee for knocking out Santana with an illegal blow.
Norris gained some sympathy in Mexico City last November, when Santana appeared to take a swoon after being hit in the back of the head in the fifth round. For that, Norris lost his title, and the WBC ordered a rematch.
But Saturday, Norris was booed after flooring Santana with a vicious punch to his face long after the bell had ended the third round. Santana was in obvious distress while taken to a hospital. It all seemed so senseless, because Norris had dropped Santana twice and could have easily disposed of the wobbly champion in another round.
Still, referee Kenny Bayliss was hardly blameless for the bizarre ending. After the bell, Bayliss stopped to caution Santana about delivering several blows below the belt. Bayliss failed to point Norris to his corner.
Norris, who said he had not heard the bell, nailed Santana as soon as the referee stepped aside.
In the remaining two championship bouts, Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez won a lopsided 12-round decision over game Giovanni Parisi of Italy, who stamped himself as a welterweight worth watching.
Chavez (94-1-1) has hinted at retiring after his 100th professional bout, but with his legion of Mexican supporters, the WBC super-welterweight champion remains one of King's most marketable fighters.
And Chavez used his bargaining power in persuading King to put his fight with Parisi in prime time rather than the Seldon-Tucker match.
But King has another potential superstar in unbeaten (26-0) welterweight champion Felix Trinidad. The Puerto Rican with a devastating punch needed less than two rounds to dispose of Roger Turner.
King joined Trinidad in challenging Pernell Whitaker to make good on his reputation as the best pound-for-pound fighter today.