Lewis-Tyson must overcome TV wrangle

After Andrew Golota's abject surrender here on Friday night, the search is officially on to set up a showdown between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Just two obstacles stand in the way. One is Tyson's threat to retire. The other, probably more serious, is to secure a deal between the rival television organisations to which the world's two biggest heavyweight attractions are contracted.

After Andrew Golota's abject surrender here on Friday night, the search is officially on to set up a showdown between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Just two obstacles stand in the way. One is Tyson's threat to retire. The other, probably more serious, is to secure a deal between the rival television organisations to which the world's two biggest heavyweight attractions are contracted.

Immediately after the fight, which ended when the Pole to all intents and purposes fled the ring rather than come out for the third round, Tyson's manager, Shelley Finkel, left the door half-open and half-closed. "Mike is disappointed. He feels unfulfilled. But the last time I heard him, he sounded pretty emphatic about retiring."

Lewis, meanwhile, tried to goad Tyson into a contest which could prove boxing's richest-ever, declaring Tyson "a shadow of his former self," and vowing to "get rid of the sport's number one misfit." Tyson, the champion predicted, would be unable to resist. "I believe the money, to have one more big fight will be too great. I hope he waits for me. I'm sure there's a little bit of food for me to eat."

First, of course, there is the small matter of Lewis's defence of his World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organisation titles against the principal contender, David Tua of New Zealand, next month, while Evander Holyfield, who holds the World Boxing Association version of the heavyweight crown, will be pressing his case for a chance to secure a hat-trick of victories over Tyson.

But the fight everyone wants is Lewis against Tyson. Whether it materialises depends on an agreement between HBO, which has the rights to show the current champion's fights, and Showtime, the organisation with which Tyson is aligned. For Lewis/Tyson to happen, one network must agree for its man to appear on the other.

Unusually, boxing's latest moment of ignominy had nothing to do with Tyson, who put up a disciplined, at times impressive performance, scrupulously following the referee's instructions to break, and flooring Golota with a crunching right hand seconds before the end of the first round.

Golota had wanted to pull out there and then, but was persuaded to come out for the second. He seemed to be weathering the storm, tying up Tyson close and landing some punches of his own. But just when a genuinely good fight seemed about to emerge, the Pole decided enough was enough. Pushing aside his trainer, Al Certo, he climbed out of the ring and strode out of the arena to a din of boos, as popcorn, beer and anything else to hand rained down from 16,000 justifiably enraged spectators.

The referee, Frank Garza, later said he told the fighter to return to his corner because his rest period was not over. Golota responded: "Why? I quit."

Whatever happens to Tyson, the farce may well have ended Golota's career on the heavyweight front line in the United States. After complaining of what his promoter, Kathy Duva, called nausea and "all kinds of head pains", he was placed under observation in a Chicago hospital - in fact, in intensive care, according to his wife, although a hospital spokesperson said she had "no information" about him.

But even if Golota gets the all-clear, neither promoters nor fans will be queuing up to see a man who has retired twice in major fights when apparently perfectly capable of continuing - against Michael Grant in November 1999 and now against Tyson, a contest which earned him between $2m (£1.38m) and $3m.

In the wake of speculation that his purse might be withheld, Golota's promoter claimed the morning after that the Pole had sustained a broken cheek-bone and concussion.

Duva, the head of Main Events, denied that his action was premeditated. "Look, if a guy went there intending to quit, he would have done it in the first round," Duva said. "Who would have said a word? He took an enormous punch, and could have stayed down."

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