Boxing: Tyson's alliance with King falling apart

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The Independent Online
Stories sweeping American boxing last night suggested that Mike Tyson has split with Don King, his promoter since 1988 and the sport's most powerful figure.

An alliance that survived Tyson's conversion to Islam while the former undisputed world heavyweight champion was imprisoned for three years is said to have been broken by an unpaid $7m (pounds 4.2m) tax demand and King's claim to 50 per cent of the $3m (pounds 1.8m) fee Tyson has been offered for refereeing a televised wrestling extravaganza. A rival boxing promoter said yesterday: "I heard Tyson was angry that the WWF [World Wrestling Federation], when it reached out for him, was told by King he had to get a cut."

It is rumoured that Tyson has been talking to the former basketball star Magic Johnson, who has taken out a boxing promoter's license in several states, and to rock entrepreneurs, Irvine Azof and Jerry Wald.

Tyson, who was in Los Angeles yesterday to speak with Azof and Wald, has also broken with John Horne and Rory Holloway who have acted as co- managers since he was paroled in 1995. Another promoter, Cedric Kushner, said he heard of the split from an associate in South Africa, where King has been attempting to arrange a bout for Evander Holyfield.

Presently under indefinite suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for biting Holyfield's ear during their title fight last year Tyson's case will come up for review in June.

King's fiercest rival, the Las Vegas promoter Bob Arum, was quick to feed rumours of a split. "Three different sources whom I trust told me that Tyson spoke angrily to Horne and Holloway outside the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles, telling them that he no longer has any use for them." When the news reached King last weekend he flew immediately from his home in Florida in an attempt to pacify the fighter.

The New York Post boxing writer Michael Katz who broke the story yesterday said: "I'm sure that this is a real split. Rumours have been going around for some time. Now they are out in the open. Through Tyson's contact with Azof and Wald he is in touch with a powerful legal team, people who have acted for the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. I think Tyson must feel pretty confident of being able to get out of whatever deal he has with King."

King's personal demands from the American cable network Home Box Office led to a breakdown in negotiations for a unifying contest between Holyfield, who holds the World Boxing Association title, and the World Boxing Council holder, Lennox Lewis.

King's alternative was for a third contest between Holyfield and Tyson, in the confident belief that the fighter over whom he once had total control will receive a favourable hearing in Nevada. The question now is will King still have a piece of it?