Boxing: Holyfield in a tangle of title aspirants: The world heavyweight division is beset by contractual complications

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The Independent Online
WHEN the bell sounded to end a tedious contest at the Convention Center here that was distinguished only by beginning on Saturday and lasting until yesterday morning, Rock Newman pronounced judgement on the clear winner, Evander Holyfield. 'I'm calling you, Tommy,' he shouted.

Riddick Bowe's eccentric manager was referring to Tommy Morrison, a bodybuilder from Jay, Oklahoma, who is marketable as a contender for the heavyweight championship mainly on the rotten basis that he is white.

In Newman's mind, Holyfield, who lost the undisputed title to Bowe last year and was coming out of retirement when he boringly outpointed a disappointing Alex Stewart, cannot be thought of as a contender. 'Evander should get out of boxing permanently,' he said.

The story until then was that Newman had filed a dollars 28m ( pounds 18m) lawsuit against Holyfield's promoter, Dan Duva, and his manager, Shelly Finkel, claiming that their options on Bowe give them an unfair advantage especially as they also have a financial stake in Lennox Lewis, the World Boxing Council champion, and Michael Moorer.

The story now is even more complicated and connects with negotiations for a defence by Lewis against Frank Bruno which is running into the difficulties of where and when? 'They (Main Events, the Duva organisation) are legally demanding we (Bowe) fight Holyfield,' Newman said before Saturday's forgettable affair. 'Then they've gone to the IBF (International Boxing Federation) to demand our next fight be with Moorer. If we fight Moorer, their position is they will sue us on behalf of Holyfield.

'If we fight Holyfield, they have already gone to Bob Lee (the president of the IBF) to try and strip us of the title if we fight anybody other than Moorer. At the same time, while they are involved in making a Lennox Lewis-Frank Bruno fight, they are pretending to negotiate with Morrison's manager, Bill Cayton, to block us from making a Bowe-Morrison fight.'

In professional boxing, of course, some of the best fights take place outside the ring. Duva and Finkel point out that there is a signed agreement for a Bowe-Holyfield rematch next November. But would it sell in view of the former champion's lacklustre display against Stewart, who had to cope with the considerable disadvantage of being badly cut over his left eye in the first round? 'There would be enough interest,' insisted Finkel while Holyfield was attempting to explain away his lack of aggression.

This is not how Newman sees it. 'Everybody could see that Bowe would knock out Holyfield,' he said. 'The fight wouldn't last more than three rounds, so how are we going to get the public interested?'

For an obvious reason, Bowe versus Morrison would be a better proposition at the box office. So would Lewis versus Morrison. Meanwhile Lewis versus Bruno is not certain. 'Nothing has been signed,' said John Hornewer, the Chicago-based lawyer who acts for Lewis. 'We have problems but they are not insurmountable,' he said. The biggest problem turns out to be Madonna, who has concerts tentatively scheduled for Wembley in the week offered for the fight.

Lewis's manager, Frank Maloney, and Bruno's promoter, Mickey Duff, were in Atlantic City for discussions with Dan Duva. Today they are going to Wimbledon, but not for the tennis. They are meeting with Seth Abraham, of Home Box Office, the American cable TV network whose interest is central to the proceedings. Until they can come up with a time and a place for Lewis versus Bruno it cannot be advanced beyond a possibility.

What we can be sure of is that the heavyweight division continues to go downhill. Holyfield and Stewart put up such a poor performance that many of the spectators left early, jeering on their way to the doors. 'I can understand that,' Holyfield said, 'but there was a lot at stake, so there was no point in unnecessary risks. I didn't take an easy fight for my comeback. I took Stewart who gave me a lot of trouble before.' Unfortunately for the public, this time it was a different story. Holyfield was characteristically cautious. He fought only in bursts, never exciting the audience. But the best you could give Stewart was a share of two rounds. 'I'm sorry, but I just wasn't myself in there tonight,' Stewart said, sadly, looking a weary and disenchanted man.

Much the same could be said of Lloyd Honeyghan, the Commonwealth light middleweight champion who was stopped in the 10th round by Vinnie Pazienza. In the city where he became the undisputed welterweight champion in 1986 by outpointing Donald Curry he may have reached the end of his career. He fought bravely enough against a crude opponent who has also seen his best days, but there was no snap or timing. In the 10th he was knocked sideways and down by a hard right and the towel fluttered in from his corner.

Pazienza carried on punching until he was restrained by the local boxing commissioner, Larry Hazard, who alertly leapt into the ring. 'I should never have let Lloyd go out for that round,' Duff said. 'I asked him if he was OK at the end of the ninth and he said yes. Vinnie was much too strong for Lloyd who is really a junior middleweight.' In truth, Honeyghan is really an old fighter who should call it a day.

(Photograph omitted)

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