Newman to fight King over Tyson

Ken Jones reports from Las Vegas on the riches that Riddick Bowe could earn from a world title fight with former champion Mike Tyson
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The Independent Online
Presuming that his gargantuan associate, Riddick Bowe, will shortly provide the World Boxing Organisation championship as a firm basis for negotiation, Rock Newman has arranged to offer Mike Tyson an opportunity for rapid rehabilitation in the heavyweight division.

Adding to the intense speculation that surrounds Tyson's imminent release from the Indiana Correction Center after serving three years for rape, Bowe's manager refuses to accept that the former undisputed title-holder is unswervingly committed to a resumption of his alliance with the promoter Don King. "From conversations with Mike, my impression is that he is still undecided," Newman said.

If Bowe, a 1-6 favourite in the Las Vegas betting emporiums, takes the WBO title from Herbie Hide at the MGM Grand on Saturday, he and Newman will meet Tyson early next week. "When Mike sees the figures I've got to show him, he may conclude that King isn't the only player," Newman added.

What he hopes to put before Tyson is the hugely lucrative prospect of a championship challenge against Bowe later this year. "It would be the biggest event in boxing history," he said. "So big that television might not be able to compete with revenue from cinemas showing the fight internationally on closed-circuit.

"We're talking enormous money here. I'm in touch with a group of pay-per-view distributors who say they can guarantee two million homes paying between $70 and $80 (£47) each. Madison Square Garden are talking about 20,000 seats at $1,000 each. I have not attempted to influence Mike, but it makes sense for him to look at all this. A danger for him is that the bloom could come off all this if he takes warm-up fights against tomato cans."

Of course, Bowe must first get past Hide, a task that would not have raised the merest flicker of doubt until he ate his way out of the championship. The spectacle of Bowe becoming a monument to gluttony almost brought an end to his relationship with boxing's most revered trainer, the 83- year-old Eddie Futch.

After defeating Evander Holyfield for the undisputed title in November 1992, Bowe expanded to more than 20 stone. There was only one word to describe him. Fat. While insisting publicly that Bowe had not finished growing, Futch saw disaster looming. When Bowe became a former champion, losing to Holyfield in a return contest, Futch seriously contemplated retirement.

However contrite, the effect on Bowe was not permanent. For one reason or another - all giving rise to serious doubts about his commitment - Bowe fulfilled only one of three contests Newman had arranged for him.

Matters came to a head in New Orleans last September, when Futch discovered that Bowe had thrown aside medicaments provided by a physical therapist, Mackie Shilstone. Futch packed his bags. "If I hadn't spent so much time looking for my air ticket, I would have been out of there before Bowe could plead with me to stay," he said.

So Futch called a cabinet meeting. "I sat down with him and Rock Newman and told him: `Riddick, if you don't care about yourself any more, why should I care?' I told him how unhappy I was. I said: `At my age, I don't have time to waste'."

The outcome, it seems, is that Bowe lost his appetite. When he stepped on the scales this week, five days before Saturday's contest, he weighed 245lb. Hardly svelte, but a big improvement. "Right on schedule," said Futch, a smile replacing the grimace that had become all-too familiar in such moments of testing.

"I think we finally got through to him," he added. "We've been in camp six weeks, and only once did he fall off his diet. Bowe picked up some injuries after winning the title, but they don't explain why he got soft. The injuries were the result of inactivity. I think he's the best heavyweight, but like all great fighters - Joe Louis, Ray Robinson, Willie Pep - he has to fight often to stay the best. It's as simple as that."

In most areas, Bowe willingly abides by tenets that tutors of boxing hold sacrosanct. General abstinence is not a problem for him, although it fails to produce the irritation that is considered desirable in preparation for combat. "I've trained to go 12 rounds against Hide," he smiled, while enduring a series of repetitive television interviews.

"I'm in shape and I hope Hide is coming to fight. He has seen the man who wants to be in charge. I don't want to go looking for him. I want Herbie there in front of me."

Bowe was sitting on a stool in the centre of the ring, and the last thing he could be accused of was bluster. Lean features suggested he had concentrated that intensity upon the cultivation of endurance. Getting within range of a title, even one as ill-considered as that put out by the WBO, has not proved easy. None of the other three alphabet organisations, the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation, rank Bowe.

"You have to give the WBO credit," Newman said. "They asked us for nothing. We beat Larry Donald, who was undefeated, and immediately they ranked Bowe number one. Now we are challenging Hide who is undefeated. We have to challenge and beat the better guys. That's clearly risky, but necessary in view of the conditions."

A short while ago, Newman's declared strategy called for Bowe to defeat Hide and then defend against Jorge Luis Gonzales, an irritant who goes around insulting him. A third meeting with Holyfield was also on the agenda. "If we come out of this year undefeated, just let anybody else claim to be the heavyweight champion," he said. That was before a grander plan took shape in Newman's mind.

Newman intends to challenge King for a say in Tyson's future. "I don't think anything has been settled," he said. "If we get through this fight, we'll be there with Mike on Monday." As for Bowe, he would go along happily with the proceedings.