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Mirror Group and BSkyB were last night competing for the pay-per- view broadcasting rights to the Lennox Lewis-Oliver McCall boxing match, scheduled for February. The move marks the first time BSkyB's hold on pay-per-view television has been seriously challenged.

Mirror Group, which owns 46 per cent of the Independent, is brokering its sought-for deal on behalf of the cable industry, which would offer the fight on a pay-per-view basis to its 1.6 million franchise homes.

BSkyB, which pioneered the pay-per-view concept in the UK with its Bruno- Tyson and Tyson-Holyfield broadcasts, was believed to be eager to top the Mirror-backed bid on behalf of its 4 million direct-to-home satellite subscribers.

Mirror Group is thought to have offered a minimum guarantee to the fight's promoters, a promise of high promotional spend and a 50/50 split of the revenues. However, analysts expected BSkyB to top the bid as the negotiations continued.