HBO boxing tourney idea needs to be KO'd in hurry

The TV Repairman:

Shades of Howard Cosell getting his toupee kicked off at ringside by an irate fighter one Saturday afternoon in Annapolis at the start of the ill-fated ABC-Don King boxing tournament, which ended up in scandalous ruin on short order.


Does HBO stand for Home Box Office or Home Boxing Organization? That is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the minds of men that the premium network win out in its war with the forces of Mike Tyson, King and Showtime or that boxing be allowed to continue blundering along under its own devious devices.


"Our aim is to create a tight group of fights with the fighters we have under contract to establish who is the real heavyweight champion," says HBO honcho Seth Abraham. In other words, a " mutually-exclusive tournament. What does the winner get, an extra converter box?

It wasn't too long ago that all segments of television were complaining about the dastardly King tying up all fighters who weigh in excess of 180 pounds. Let the free market dictate, said network and cable. That was before HBO realized how exhilarating power can be and how more uncomplicated life can tTC be without promoters.

The hope is that Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis, Herbie Hide, Ray Mercer and Tommy Morrison will join house fighter George Foreman in this quest. Don't look for your name, Axel Shultz, it ain't there.

Currently, the only belt holding up the pants of any of these men is Bowe's WBO title which, together with 79 cents, will get you a scalding coffee at McDonald's. Simply stated, even if this whole thing comes off, it will lead to the creation of yet another champion. Which, as everyone knows, is just what's needed.

Meanwhile, King has the linchpin, Tyson, the WBC and WBA titles and their holders, Oliver McCall and Bruce Seldon, a plan for the IBF and lots of other things not in writing. While a couple of decent fights could come out of the HBO venture, King will still possess many more trumps than the opposition.

Get out of the promoting and matchmaking business HBO, and do what you do best. Cover. If good fights don't materialize under the time-honored and flawed system, check on another movie.

* Yes, baseball's All-Star Game will be on next Tuesday, lameduck ABC doing the honors from Arlington, Texas, immediately after "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" on Channel 2. The night before, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN, the old-timers will clump around (for 90 minutes) followed by a (taped) home run hitting contest. It's the 66th Mid-Summer Night Classic.

* Home Team Sports has a tape of tomorrow night's home opener of the Horse With No Name (which gets a name today) against San Antonio Sunday at 1 p.m. Shrinking violet owner Jim Speros figures as a halftime guest.


* One of the more endearing things about John McEnroe's work as a commentator at Wimbledon for NBC is his choice of words. While working a match, Bruno Rebeuh, the chair umpire in the Jeff Tarango flap, was having his problems again. Intoned McEnroe, "Jeff Tarango is not appearing as nuts as he was a few hours ago. You know you have a good official when you don't see him. You have problems with someone like Rebeuh." P.S. -- Bruno is not the man "Superbrat" once referred to as "the pits of the world."

* The ABC fight Sunday (3:30) has little guys, Eddie Hopson (26-0) vs. Tracy Patterson (52-3) dueling for the former's 130-pound title.

* Usually, when a guy gets out of the broadcasting booth to return to coaching, the call here is that it's a good move for him and for us, the viewers and listeners. Not so with Mike Milbury heading back behind the bench for the New York Islanders and away from ESPN.

Sharp, incisive and a let the chips fall where they may kind of guy, Mike did yeoman work helping casual fans understand hockey and, more specifically, the NHL. Testament to how good he was is gleaned from the fact that some players got upset with some of his assessments.

* The PGA Tour stop on CBS this weekend (4 p.m.-6 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday) after USA gets done with the second round today (4 p.m.-6 p.m.) is the Western Open, outside Chicago, a tourney that used to be classified as a "major." Before the final round, cruiserweights Kenny Keene (31-1) and Terry Ray (28-2) cuff each other around for your viewing pleasure beginning at 2 p.m.

Last add Ben Wright/women's golf flap: The CBS commentator is said to have admitted a couple of times that he spoke the words about LPGA golfers and lesbians, which found there way into a Wilmington (Del.) newspaper. His pullback position now is that he was speaking off the record.


* Hey, the NHL draft is on ESPN (taped Monday at 1 p.m. Don't want to miss that. . . . The SEC just arranged to show 250 hours of conference activity in 19 sports on SportsSouth cable. This might be described as being hard up for programming. . . . Tommy Hearns fights as a 190-pounder July 16 on CBS and more than a few people should hang their heads in shame over this.

* Have you had just about enough of Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon conversing via full-page national ads for the greater glory of Nike, Pizza Hut or whomever?

* Anyone who would watch athletes carve up a course on the Isuzu Celebrity Golf on NBC tomorrow (4 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.) would certainly tune in to watch Johnny Miller (NBC) and Gary McCord (CBS) meet to determine which network has the best-playing announcer. McCord issued the challenge, having much to gain, while Miller looks upon it as a no-win proposition: "Corvettes don't race with Yugos." It'll happen, watch.

* Warning: Don't watch the Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton fight (No. 3) on ESPN's "Superbouts" tomorrow (4 p.m.) unless you want to be sickened over how superior the top heavyweights of the '70s were when compared to the tubbies wallowing around these days.