Tyson's sudden withdrawal leaves Fox grasping for ropes

Once again, boxing takes a roundhouse right to the jaw, with the abrupt cancellation of Saturday's Mike Tyson-Buster Mathis Jr. fight, blowing a chance to spruce up its tattered image in front of one of the largest American television audiences ever.

The table was set for the most intriguing personality in the sport, Tyson, to display his wares, albeit against a nobody, before the nation in a prime showcase, the best boxing has had in many years.


And Fox was going to pull out all the stops to get the maximum promotional value out of the night, with its top NFL announcers -- Pat Summerall, John Madden, James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long -- playing key roles in the telecast, which surely would have drawn big ratings.

Instead, the network is left with egg on its face, a sizable hole in its schedule during the first weekend of the November sweeps, and the prospect of offering make-good advertising, probably in football, to firms that bought time expecting a piece of Tyson.


Now, Fox will substitute two episodes of "The X-Files" science fiction show in place of the fight card, which was going to launch a monthly prime-time Saturday boxing show.

Oddly enough, Jay Larkin, executive producer of Showtime Event Television, from which Fox bought the rights to the fight, said the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and Fox were looking to reschedule the bout by the end of the year. Maybe the network should say, "Don't bother."

TNT's Brown likes Bullets

TNT's Hubie Brown likes the Washington Bullets' chances this season, which begins tomorrow night.

"You definitely have one of the best young frontcourts with Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Rasheed Wallace, though when you play the three of them together you won't have a real small forward, and their [shooting] guard is extremely questionable," Brown said in a teleconference this week.

Brown was especially high on this week's trade that brought point guard Robert Pack to Washington from the Denver Nuggets.

"Any time you don't have consistent outside scoring, you've got to have people who can break people down, and Pack can do that," said Brown. "The addition of Pack is a major plus. I like his game."

World Series wrap-up


The final ratings results are in for the World Series, and like everything else associated with baseball these days, the picture is a bit murky.

On the good news side, the Series averaged a 19.5 rating and 33 share of the national audience, marking a 13 percent increase from 1993's 17.3/30 and the first rise in four years.

In a head-to-head comparison between baseball and the NBA, the sport widely perceived to be the new challenger for second place in the hearts of American sports fans, the Series won big, topping the 13.9 average for the Houston-Orlando championship series.

But the 1995 Fall Classic was the third-lowest Series ever, ranking just ahead of 1993 and the earthquake-interrupted 1989 Series. Also, the 19.5 rating is a half-point lower than the 20.0 rating promised to advertisers by the Baseball Network.

Locally, the final three games of the Series were strong performers, according to Pat Barranger, Channel 2's sales and marketing manager and this week's sole and official "Media Watch" ratings supplier. Games 4 and 5, both on Channel 2, did a 17.2/26 and 20.8/29, respectively, and Game 6 on Saturday got a 19.3/32 on Channel 11.

And, finally, we would be remiss if we didn't note that Channel 2's locally produced "Sunday Sports Extra" outdrew Channel 13's syndicated "George Michael Sports Machine," in the battle of Sunday night highlight shows, 5.1 to 4.7.