Tyson is perfect for King

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The Independent Online
Reports from the United States indicate a great deal of speculation over the effect that Mike Tyson's expected release from jail in May will have on activity in the heavyweight division. As advanced, mischievously, by Riddick Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, the most implausible hypothesis is that Tyson will resume his career without the assistance of Don King, the great manipulator who is gradually regaining control of sport's most lucrative title.

My information, and it comes from a source close to King, is that a deal has already been struck. Presuming that Tyson's powers have not been severely eroded by three years behind bars, especially his reflexes, and that the comeback goes according to plan, he will gross in excess of $250m (£162m) from a contract with the cable television company, Showtime.

This makes nonsense of what Newman was reported to have said. Obviously establishing a case for the former World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion, who is challenging Herbie Hide for the World Boxing Organisation title on 11March in Las Vegas (the alphabet curse is always with us), he put forward the notion that Tyson versus Bowe could come sooner rather than later. "They could split $120m," he said.

This is unlikely to fit in with King's thinking. Having lost control over life among the titans when James "Buster" Douglas sensationally knocked out a mentally dishevelled Tyson in Tokyo almost five years ago, King is back in business.

The tale building up around a renewal of King's association with Tyson took clear shape last October, when Oliver McCall knocked out Lennox Lewis to become the World Boxing Council champion. In common with the majority of ranked heavyweights, McCall is aKing fighter. As a result of the promotional contract he signed with Frank Warren, a King associate, so is Frank Bruno.

McCall's victory restored King's authority in the heavyweight business. He has one of four versions of the championship, and unless George Foreman succeeds in overturning the WBA's refusal to sanction his defence of their title against Axel Schulz of Germany in April, he could soon have another. If the WBA are left in a position to strip Foreman, declaring their title vacant, probably it will be contested by Tony Tucker and Bruce Selsdon, both King fighters.

This would insure King against the risk McCall is taking on 8 April, when he defends the WBC crown against Larry Holmes. In any case, the way things are shaping up we could have four heavyweight champions. McCall or Holmes (WBC), Foreman (IBF), Tucker orSelsdon (WBA) and Bowe, a clear favourite to defeat Hide, (WBO).

Sport does not get more ludicrous than that. However, the situation is developing along lines to King's immense satisfaction. It includes persuading the notoriously pliant WBC to install Tyson as their leading contender immediately on his return to society.

There are a number of possibilities, Tyson versus Foreman or Bowe among them. The most likely is that Tyson will go for one of the titles King aims to have in his possession. Bruno and Lewis are out there but the future is not clear to them.

Tyson's future is not all that clear either. Alongside the sense of diminishment he conveyed before and after losing the undisputed title, there is the possibility that imprisonment has weakened his resolve. Reflecting on recent conversations with Tyson (they were raised in the same rough New York neighbourhood), Bowe said: "Mike still speaks of himself as the baddest man on the planet, but I don't think he is."

Tyson can get in shape, but it will be much more difficult to restore the presence that once made his opponents tremble.