Nevada athletic official offers to mediate TV fight HBO-Showtime tiff is causing date conflicts


The executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission has volunteered to serve as a peacemaker to head off another possible heavyweight boxing conflict March 16, between cable TV powers Time-Warner and Viacom, the parent of Showtime.

"People have to recognize the sheer folly of staging two major fights in the same town the same night," said Marc Ratner, who will be forced to stretch his staff of referees, judges, timekeepers, doctors and inspectors to the limit Nov. 4, when rival Las Vegas casinos will present Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield III and the Mike Tyson-Buster Mathis Jr. fight.

"I'm going to invite the major cable executives, the pay-per-view operators, rival fight promoters and the major casino operators to a meeting in early December to keep this from becoming an ongoing battle," said Ratner.

But major parties involved in the conflict were not optimistic.

"Right now, it's like the Middle East," said Ross Greenburg, executive vice president of HBO, a subsidiary of Time-Warner. "You hope for peace, but you can't predict what will happen tomorrow."

Added Jay Larkin, Showtime's vice president for programming: "We're trying to find solutions to problems we didn't create.

"We've held private conversations with Time-Warner. We're talking about boxing on TV, not a cure for AIDS or cancer. dTC There's no noble cause or higher calling, just two rich cable companies trying to make more money. It's just doing business, and we're both trying to tie up the few prime dates available."

The major combatants are Time-Warner sports president Seth Abraham and promoter Don King. They began fighting after King coaxed Tyson to leave HBO in favor of Showtime, with whom Tyson signed an exclusive contract after his release from jail last March.

Tyson made his comeback Aug. 19 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and needed only 89 seconds to dispose of Peter McNeeley.

The MGM Grand is the site for the Tyson-Mathis match, in conflict with Bowe-Holyfield at Caesars Palace.

King, currently on trial in New York for mail fraud, tentatively has scheduled Tyson to challenge for Bruce Seldon's World Boxing Association crown at the MGM Grand on March 16.

Abraham countered with a heavyweight card at Caesars Palace the same night, pitting the winner of Bowe-Holyfield against former champion Lennox Lewis.

"I've tried to find a settlement in dueling dates," Abraham recently told New York Newsday. "But if King is going to book fights well in advance, we're not going to be gentlemen and stand aside.

"The competition for dates shouldn't be a vendetta, but King told me, 'I'm not letting you embarrass me in front of Mike Tyson.' "

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