LAS VEGAS — Less than two weeks ago, Michael Spinks' manager/promoter, Butch Lewis, was calling the management team of heavyweight champion Mike Tyson "two of the most vicious SOBs who ever lived."
Wednesday, reports out of New York had it that Lewis and Tyson co-managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton had all but kissed and made up. Well, not really. But it's amazing how a few million dollars can clear the air.
The two sides are talking big numbers this week--something like $80 million for a battle matching the two unbeaten heavyweights, sometime in June.
Cayton, however, sought Wednesday to soften speculation that a deal was at hand.
"It's premature," he told The Times, by phone. "Certain things have been agreed to, and Jim and I have heard of them verbally, second hand . . . meaning through lawyers. Until we see everything typed up in a contract, we won't know if we have a deal.
"Sometimes these things look like they're all done in the talking stages, but when they get put in print, there are huge differences. Right now, I'd say chances of it coming off are about fifty-fifty."
Spinks' people, however, indicated a deal has been agreed to, that a signing is imminent and that formal announcement would come as soon as Monday.
The two sides have negotiated seriously since Jan. 23, the day after Tyson knocked out Larry Holmes in Atlantic City.
Cayton said four sites are under consideration: the Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City, Madison Square Garden in New York City, and two Las Vegas hotels, Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton.
A Caesars Palace source said Wednesday that Bob Halloran, vice president for sports for Caesars World, was on his way to New York to make a formal bid for Tyson-Spinks. The hotel paid a record $7 million for last April's Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard fight, which reportedly grossed a record $80 million.
Lewis' role, or lack of same, in a Tyson-Spinks bout has kept the two sides apart for months. Repeatedly, Lewis maintained Tyson-Spinks would not occur if he was not at least a co-promoter with Don King. No way, Tyson's people said.
Said Cayton two days before Tyson-Holmes: "With or without Michael Spinks, Mike Tyson will make about $50 million in 1988. Without Mike Tyson, Michael Spinks will make almost nothing in 1988."
On Wednesday, Cayton indicated Lewis may have accepted a "buyout" of his asked-for promotional role.
"Originally, Butch Lewis (and Spinks) was offered something like $10 million against a percentage," Cayton said. "Now we're talking about a flat number, something between $12.5 million and $13.5. In other words, if the fight goes through the roof, Spinks does not share in it (the part that goes through the roof)."
New York boxing manager Shelly Finkel, who has acted as a negotiator for both camps, said a pay-per-view Tyson-Spinks could top Hagler-Leonard.
"If the thing hits a home run and the net is around $40 million, Mike Tyson could touch $20 million," he said. "It could be the biggest box office event in the history of sports."
Tyson and Spinks probably would have met last year, in Don King's heavyweight tournament, but Lewis pulled Spinks out of the tournament to take a Gerry Cooney fight, which Spinks won easily.
How big would Tyson-Spinks be?
Cayton: "It all depends on the general public. It's the fight all boxing fans want to see, so they'll be there. But if, in addition to that the fight were to capture the imagination of the general public, then you're talking about big numbers."