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TVKO Inches Toward A Lewis-Rahman Deal

The once-fuzzy fourth-quarter pay-per-view boxing picture is now more in focus, as TVKO moves closer to securing distribution rights to a Nov. 10 Hasim Rahman-Lennox Lewis heavyweight-championship rematch.

And though the network has hit a snag in its efforts to finalize a potential Dec. 8 Oscar De La Hoya-Fernando Vargas bout, TVKO executives remain optimistic that PPV fight can also be made.

HBO senior vice president of sports operations Mark Taffet said an agreement to pit World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Rahman against Lewis — whom Rahman knocked out to win those titles last April — is close to being finalized.

"There have been extensive conversations between the two parties and we're optimistic that the fighters and their respective teams will be able to work out a deal," Taffet said.

Rahman was forced to give Lewis an immediate rematch last June, after U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Cedarbaum ruled that Rahman had breached his contract with Lewis for the first fight. That contract included a provision that granted Lewis an immediate rematch if he lost.

Meanwhile, TVKO had initially set a Dec. 8 date for the De La Hoya-Vargas junior-middleweight championship fight, but De La Hoya pulled out over a dispute regarding the fight's purse, said sources close to the situation.

Taffet, though, still believes the parties can reach a pact.

"All big fight negotiations have their ebbs and flows," said Taffet. "The bigger the deal, the more difficult it is to complete. I'm hopeful that we can help get it back on track."

If made, the Rahman-Lewis and De La Hoya-Vargas PPV events would provide a positive end to an otherwise lackluster boxing year.

Boxing events generated $47.7 million in the first half of 2001, down 13 percent from the $56.7 million earned in 2000, according to Showtime Event Television figures.

In other boxing news, Showtime executives said the network will go ahead with plans for a Sept. 8 Mike Tyson-Brian Nielsen fight from Denmark, despite potential legal troubles for the beleaguered former heavyweight champion.

Last month, it was alleged that Tyson sexually assaulted a woman in San Bernadino, Calif., although it was unclear at press time whether authorities would charge Tyson with any crime.