Promoter Don King landed the first big blow in the heavyweight conflict over Nov. 4 -- when Mike Tyson and Buster Mathis Jr. goes head-to-head against Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield at rival Las Vegas casinos.
According to a boxing source, King has reached a deal for an undisclosed sum with Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network to show Tyson vs. Mathis at the MGM Grand on Fox affiliates throughout the country. There will be no charge to view the non-title bout.
This, in effect, would undermine plans by Time-Warner, the parent company of HBO, to sell the Bowe-Holyfield III bout, scheduled at Caesars Palace, on pay-per-view for an estimated $40.
A spokesman for Fox confirmed that a news conference will be held in New York today to announce its agreement with King.
Originally, King had vowed to show Tyson's second comeback match on pay-per-view after his 89-second encounter Aug. 19 with Peter McNeeley was viewed in 1.53 million homes, generating a record $63 million in the United States,
The worldwide gross of $98 million was also a pay-per-view record. The heralded return of the former heavyweight champion was carried by pay-per-view outlets of Showtime, which gave Tyson a $20 million advance for a six-bout package as soon as he was freed from serving a three-year jail sentence in Indiana for raping a beauty pageant contestant.
Dan Duva and Rock Newman, co-promoters of Bowe-Holyfield III, had submitted their request for the Nov. 4 date to the Nevada Athletic Commission two days earlier than executive director Marc Ratner received a fax from King.
Ratner said the commission could not resolve the conflict and waited for one of the parties to blink. But Seth Abraham, president of Time-Warner, and King wouldn't budge.
King is betting a free-of-charge Tyson fight will attract a far larger audience than Bowe and Holyfield, despite their two previous classic matches. Now the next move is up to Abraham.