You don't need Sherlock Holmes to deduce that the biggest winner in the fallout from Mike Tyson's broken thumb is Seth Abraham, the president of Time-Warner Sports.
All along, Abraham maintained that his company's TVKO pay-per-view arm, which is telecasting tomorrow night's Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield fight from Las Vegas, would do just fine against the planned Tyson-Buster Mathis Jr. bout down the strip and planned first for pay-per-view, then free television.
But now that the Tyson-Mathis fight is off, Abraham looks like a riverboat gambler who rolled a seven at precisely the right time.
"We were prepared to co-exist unhappily with the other event down the street," said Abraham yesterday. "We take no comfort in that [the cancellation]. We've been there and I can tell you when you have a fight canceled that close to the date, you're at your own funeral. That's the feeling."
Said Jim Lampley, who will call the Bowe-Holyfield fight: "Logic told you three months ago that it wasn't the most intelligent business decision for either side. For it to have gone down and to leave one fight sort of puts the world in harmony."
While we all should strive for a harmonious planet, the world of boxing turns on cash, and TVKO should score a good deal more of it as a result of Tyson's injury. Abraham, when pressed, said one could reasonably figure on anywhere from 100,000-250,000 additional buys for the show, which carries a suggested retail price of $39.95.
The relocation derby
Where you get your information on the latest round of NFL teams rumored to be moving here depends on whether you want immediacy or specifics.
Channel 11 took the early lead, with Mark Viviano's report at 11 p.m. Wednesday touting the Cleveland Browns as the favorite to come, with New England, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Seattle as possibilities.
Viviano continued to dig yesterday and was the first to report that the Browns had signed an agreement in principle with the Maryland Stadium Authority to move, as well as the angle that the NFL would approve a resolution to guarantee Baltimore a team, if only to gain control of the process, though his reports never specified who was providing the information at the core of his story.
Channel 2, which was badly burned initially, attempted a comeback. Scott Garceau reported only that an agreement had been reached between the MSA and a team, though he hinted that the Browns were, in fact, the team.
Garceau, however, did report that Cleveland owner Art Modell had notified other NFL owners about his talks, and that Modell's son, David, and Jim Bailey, a team executive, had been meeting with MSA officials, giving some journalistic heft to his story.
John Buren pooh-poohed the whole thing, saying at 6 p.m., "I just don't see the landscape changing appreciably," referring to Baltimore's failure to land an expansion team two years ago, then adding at 11 p.m. that agreements in principle were "whistling past the graveyard." We'll see if he's right.
Channel 13, the first station to send a reporter to Cleveland, deserves brickbats for leaving the impression that it broke this story, by running a voice-over of a report on a Cleveland radio station that said a Baltimore TV outlet was reporting the move.
While that statement was true, the fact is that the station was Channel 11 and, with Buren sitting on the set casting doubt on the veracity of the story, Channel 13 looked hypocritical.
Channel 45's Steve Davis looked a bit out of his element, citing a litany of unidentified sources, but breaking very little new material, though he did add an overlooked aspect to the Cleveland angle, pointing out that the Browns still have three years left on their Cleveland Stadium lease and 12 years on their practice-facility lease.
Got a basketball jones?
Tonight is the season premiere of 45 Tuesday and Friday telecasts of the NBA on TNT, as the Chicago Bulls meet the Charlotte Hornets at 8 p.m. Preceding that at 7 p.m. is a one-hour season preview, with Chris Webber joining the Turner crew in Atlanta.
Webber's team, the Washington Bullets, opens play against the Philadelphia 76ers, the game being shown on the Bullets' new station, Washington's Channel 50, which is not available on any area cable system.
On the college scene, the defending women's NCAA champion, Connecticut, plays an exhibition Sunday against the U.S. national team at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN, the kickoff of the network's college telecast schedule.