Buster Douglas signed a "conditional contract" Wednesday to defend his heavyweight boxing championship at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas in September, a fight that will pay him a record $25 million.
A Mirage spokesman said the contract Douglas signed was contingent on Douglas' breaking his contract with promoter Don King, and that Douglas and the Mirage had filed suit against King Wednesday.
"Buster Douglas and the Mirage, as co-plaintiffs, today filed suit against Don King, seeking to break a promotional agreement King has with Douglas," Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said.
Las Vegas promoter Bob Arum, New York promoter Shelly Finkel and Douglas' camp all said that John Johnson, Douglas' manager, and Mirage owner Steve Wynn had completed a deal.
Douglas, who made $1.3 million in knocking out Mike Tyson Feb. 11, would earn boxing's biggest purse for his first defense, most likely against No. 1 contender Evander Holyfield. One rumor had it that a two-fight deal was in the works, with former champion Mike Tyson meeting the Douglas-Holyfield winner.
If the Mirage-Douglas deal is indeed made, Douglas' September payday will exceed the record $21 million reportedly paid to Tyson after his 1988 knockout of Michael Spinks.
According to Arum, Wynn and Johnson signed an agreement Wednesday afternoon. And Arum said that he has a handshake deal to promote the fight and distribute the pay-per-view telecast.
"Wynn has guaranteed Douglas $25 million," Arum said. "They signed an agreement for Douglas to fight in September against Holyfield or another opponent."
Johnson acknowledged after the Tokyo fight that Douglas had signed a promotional contract with King, in the event he defeated Tyson. But Johnson said King breached his legal standing with Douglas by attempting to have the Douglas-Tyson result overturned in the hours after Douglas' victory.
King and the Tyson camp claimed that Mexican referee Octavio Meyran had blundered by giving Douglas a long count when Tyson knocked him down in the eighth round.
Johnson's son and Douglas' assistant manager, John Johnson Jr., said Wednesday that a deal had been completed.
"It'll be September and Buster will get $25 million," he said. "Dad and Buster were to come back to Columbus and talk over everything, but things are moving pretty quickly. It's possible everything could be signed Thursday."
Faced with covering Douglas' guarantee, Arum said the promotion of Douglas' first defense will be a huge undertaking.
"It'll have to be the biggest-grossing fight in history just to break even," Arum said.
There was no word Wednesday as to what Holyfield would earn for a fight with Douglas. But before Tyson-Douglas he had signed for a June 18 fight with Tyson that would have paid him $12 million, and Tyson $22 million to $25 million.
Shelly Finkel, New York rock-concert promoter and pay-per-view TV syndicator, said Johnson had told him Tuesday night he had cut a deal with Wynn.
"I told John that September is a problem for Holyfield's people and he understands that. I told him we ought to look at what kind of money is out there (for Douglas-Holyfield) before we discuss the September date."
From the outset, Wynn seemed to have been the bidding leader for Douglas' first defense. In fact, the red carpet reached all the way from Las Vegas to Columbus, Ohio.
Last Sunday, Wynn arrived in Columbus in his private jet, a 26-seat DC-9, picked up Douglas and Johnson, and flew them to Las Vegas. Two hours after arriving, Douglas and Johnson had prime seats, with Wynn, for the Siegfried and Roy show at the Mirage.
Dan Duva, Holyfield's promoter, was unavailable for comment Wednesday. But a spokeswoman for his firm, Main Events, said Duva remains strongly opposed to a September fight with Douglas.
"If it turns out September is non-negotiable, I'm sure he'd discuss it," said Ellen Krudys. "But he definitely feels very strongly that the fight should be in June."
Holyfield will be Douglas' opponent in September, Arum said.
"They may not like the date, but they'll take the fight," he said."