Lewis left on outside looking in

Harry Mullan attempts to unravel a complicated heavyweight scene
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Two significant names were missing from last night's gathering of the great and not-so-good in Las Vegas. George Foreman, the last man to win the "real" world heavyweight championship in direct linear succession, is presumably touring the sushi bars of Tokyo after belly-bumping his way to victory there last week in his first fight for almost two years, while Britain's Lennox Lewis, one of the few who could give Mike Tyson a decent argument, is still waiting for his invitation to join the party.

Foreman's points defeat of the previously-unbeaten American Crawford Grimsley, 18 years his junior, was not one for the purists but it does complicate the already muddled championship picture. Now that Foreman has returned to action, he can legitimately argue his claim to the title is more valid than Tyson's. After all, he won it from the genuine champion, Michael Moorer, while all Tyson has done is collect the WBC version and discard it before taking the WBA title.

The Tokyo fight was officially for the World Boxing Union and International Boxing Association belts. The WBU, which is run from a Norfolk village, is slowly gaining credibility but I confess I had never heard of the IBA before last weekend. In this game, though, that's not surprising. All you need to start your very own world governing body is a smart blazer badge and some nice letter-heading, and you're in business. The late lamented EL Wisty would have made the grade, big-time, if he had applied his energies to boxing administration rather then the World Domination League.

Foreman will get his chance eventually to settle supremacy with Tyson, if Don King's programme for 1997 runs smoothly. Considering the number of imponderables in the equation, though, nothing is certain. On 14 December in Atlantic City Riddick Bowe, for so long seen as Tyson's natural heir, has his keenly-anticipated rematch with Andrew Golota, the giant Pole who was a punch away from stopping Bowe when a crazy foul brought him disqualification and sparked off a riot in Madison Square Garden in July. If Golota wins this time, he will face Tyson in the Garden on 26 January, but if Bowe wins he will not figure in Tyson's immediate plans.

On the same show Tim Witherspoon, the 38-year-old Philadelphia veteran who successfully sued King for lost earnings, meets Ray Mercer, who gave Lennox Lewis such a tough 10-rounder in May. If Golota loses but Mercer wins, Mercer gets the Tyson date. But if Bowe and Witherspoon are the December winners, Tyson will look elsewhere: there is more chance of the Pope receiving a "Get Well" card from Ian Paisley than of King giving Witherspoon a title shot.

Stage two of King's master plan has Tyson defending in Las Vegas on 15 March against Michael Moorer. Tyson will then face Oliver McCall for the WBC, WBA and IBF belts in Las Vegas on 28 June, providing McCall beats Lewis for the vacant WBC title, and then round off the year by tackling Foreman in September. In the meantime, Foreman may defend his titles against the HIV-positive Tommy Morrison, who flattened a petrified substitute in the first round on the Tokyo card after his original opponent could not make the trip because he was, inconveniently, in jail.

Lewis is conspicuously absent from Tyson's plan. King and Tyson have gone to expensive lengths to avoid facing him, even paying him $6m "stepaside" money to allow Tyson to fight Bruce Seldon for the WBA title and then relinquishing the WBC belt rather then defend against him. "Lewis has two chances of fighting Tyson, slim and none," King said.

Instead, he has matched Lewis and McCall for the vacant WBC title in Nashville on 14 January, to coincide with a country music festival there. Somehow I can't see a street dude, party animal like McCall being entirely at ease in the home town of redneck, Bible-belt America and he may be almost as eager as Lewis to switch the fight to London in February. Either way, Lewis v Tyson looks as far away as ever.