What's in store for '94: Boxing

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WHEN Evander Holyfield surprisingly regained the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association heavyweight titles from Riddick Bowe last month a serious complication was removed from the division.

With Bowe's troublesome manager, Rock Newman, out of the way, and as long as Holyfield chose to carry on fighting, it could be supposed that the spring of 1994 would see the World Boxing Council champion, Lennox Lewis, in a unifying contest. The date, 23 April. The place, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

Enter Don King, who ceased to be a promotional force in heavyweight affairs when Mike Tyson received a three-year sentence for rape. Tyson will be released early in 1995. Thus he figures prominently in proceedings that developed earlier this month in Puebla, Mexico, when King's principal champion, Julio Cesar Chavez, stopped Andy Holligan of Liverpool in defence of the WBC light-welterweight title.

Prominent among the ringsiders were Bob Lee and Gilbert Mendoza, respectively presidents of the IBF and WBA. Shortly afterwards the IBF announced that it would not sanction a Holyfield defence against Lewis on account of Michael Moorer being their mandatory challenger. When the WBA quickly followed suit Holyfield versus Lewis fell apart and the heavyweight division is again in a mess.

Holyfield and Lewis have two choices. Either to go along with the alphabet organisations or cast aside their belts and fight for an unofficial title on the basis that the winner would be recognised as the true champion. As the latter course does not appeal to Holyfield, a defence against Moorer, who could have been bought off, becomes a real possibility.

By March, 12 months from when he defended the WBC title against Tony Tucker after gaining it by decree, Lewis will be required to make a mandatory defence against Oliver McCall, significantly a King-controlled fighter.

Supposing they are both successful, Holyfield and Lewis could come together next autumn. But with King attempting to regain a foothold there are no guarantees. Bowe figures in it all, but where?

Tyson certainly does because he remains the biggest drawing card in heavyweight boxing. 'Once he steps out of the prison gate Mike will be looking at dollars 40m,' an American observer of the sport said this week.

Not that King is certain to be still in alliance with the former champion, who looked unbeatable until, mentally confused, he lost the undisputed championship to James 'Buster' Douglas. Tyson's conversion to Islam is said to be one of the reasons why King's name has been struck from the visitors' list.

In professional boxing nothing much is ever what it seems. Last month it looked as though Lewis would quickly get an opportunity to prove that he is the best heavyweight around. Now who knows what 1994 will bring for him?