Tyson Wants to Fight Lewis This Year

Talks aimed at securing an eagerly awaited Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight heated up last week after Tyson called for the event to be made sometime this year.

But issues surrounding the pay-per-view distribution of such a fight could prove to be a major hurdle, executives said.

Prior to last week, Tyson had been uncharacteristically quiet since his third-round TKO of Francois Botha in October. He said he'd like to meet current World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation champion Lewis either in April or early fall, adviser Shelly Finkel said.

Tyson had contemplated retirement after defeating Botha, but Finkel said Tyson was anxious to get into the ring with Lewis.

"Mike has never not wanted to make the fight," said Finkel. "He wants the fight and wants it as soon as possible."

Lewis, who faces a dearth of marketable opponents in the division, has also said that he wants to fight Tyson sometime this year.

Neither fighter drew impressive buy-rate figures in their last PPV fights. Tyson's Oct. 20 contest generated around 450,000 buys, well short of Tyson's worst PPV performance in January 1999, when his bout with Botha drew 700,000 buys.

Lewis' Nov. 11 PPV fight against David Tua drew about 420,000 PPV buys. That was strong compared to past Lewis performances but well short of the upper echelon of heavyweight PPV performances.

Yet most observers believe a Lewis-Tyson matchup could be very lucrative for a PPV industry that's struggled to schedule major PPV boxing events in 2001.

But for Tyson-Lewis to happen, rivals Showtime Event Television and TVKO would have to reach some sort of compromise over which entity would distribute the event.

SET has distribution rights to Tyson, while TVKO has a multi-fight deal with Lewis.

Finkel said Showtime is willing to discuss the matter. HBO Sports spokesman Ray Stallone would only say that the network's doors "are open" and it's "willing to take any phone call or meeting" about the fight.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.