HBO deal may help Lewis title bid

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The Independent Online
BOXING

KEN JONES

The prospect of making $30-40m (pounds 20-25m) was held out to Lennox Lewis yesterday when the American cable television network, Home Box Office, challenged the dubious authority of the alphabet organisations by announcing its own heavyweight tournament.

Choosing an appropriate date, Seth Abraham, who is president of HBO's parent company, Time Warner Sports, and is in London for Wimbledon, said: "We are going to create a group of fights with the men we have under contract to really establish who is the heavyweight champion.

"There are four champions and soon there will be six. Oliver McCall (WBC), Bruce Seldon (WBA), Franz Botha, Axel Schulz or Tony Tucker (IBF), Riddick Bowe (WBO), George Foreman (WBU) and Tommy Morrison (IBC).

"If the alphabet was made up of more than 26 letters we'd probably have even more champions. We might as well have the best-dressed champion, the Harrods champion and the Hugh Grant champion of indiscretion. It's ridiculous and the fans don't care any more."

Foreman's promoter, Bob Arum, is in London at HBO's invitation, a meeting is planned with Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, when he returns from vacation, and Abraham is in touch with Lewis's principal investor, Panos Eliades, and his manager, Frank Maloney.

"I think it's time the alarm bell went off in Lennox's head," Abraham said, referring to the fact the Lewis lost his No 1 WBC rating to Mike Tyson when the former undisputed champion was released from prison. "Lennox would make more than $30m if he came top in this tournament and nobody could deny him a title shot."

Since last February, none of the championship fights put out by HBO have carried an alphabet label. "We aren't interested in belts," Abraham added, "and that's how we intend to go about this tournament."

If an agreement can be reached with Lewis, he will be matched with Morrison in October, followed by Foreman against Michael Moorer from whom he took the WBA and IBF titles. Abraham insists that until Foreman loses or retires, he is the true champion by line of succession. If HBO had an agreement with Tyson, it would of course be a different story.

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