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Performance Deserving of Encore

Boxing: Holyfield-Tyson II could take place as soon as March if both fighters agree and King has his way.


LAS VEGAS — Holyfield-Tyson II: The Rematch.

Ready or not, it could be coming to a pay-per-view outlet near you on March 15.

That date had already been reserved for Mike Tyson's next fight, even before he stepped into the ring Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, a 6-1 favorite against Evander Holyfield.

Tyson was supposed to win easily, defending his World Boxing Assn. heavyweight title. International Boxing Federation champion Michael Moorer was supposed to beat challenger Francois Botha. And Tyson was supposed to then face Moorer in March.

Moorer, despite a bruised jaw, held up his end of the deal. As every fight fan on this planet knows by now, Tyson did not, losing shockingly and decisively to Holyfield on an 11th-round TKO.

For now, though Tyson and Holyfield indicate they will continue to fight, neither is ready to talk specifics.

"The only rematch right now is in a New York studio next Sunday," said Mike Marley, a Tyson spokesman, referring to a cable telecast of Saturday's fight, to be shown Sunday with both men scheduled to be on hand to provide commentary.

But Tyson's promoter, Don King, has no plans to change the March 15 date, meaning Tyson will be in the ring that night against somebody. He could go ahead with his plans to fight Moorer. He could fight Henry Akinwande, who defended his World Boxing Organization heavyweight title Saturday night and is also controlled by King.

But the King people feel some urgency to get Tyson back in the ring against Holyfield. Despite the fact that Holyfield out-thought and outfought their man, they remain convinced that Tyson can beat Holyfield the second time around.

If Tyson indeed can, that would undoubtedly mean a third fight. Since Holyfield is 34, age could become a factor if the second fight doesn't happen for a year or more.

Lou Duva, a long-time handler of Holyfield, isn't ready to make a commitment for his fighter just yet.

"We're going to take a little time off," Duva said.

Duva may take some time off to enjoy his profits from Saturday night. Taking advantage of odds that fluctuated between 14-1 and 16-1 at the time he placed bets for himself and his family--"All the way down to the grandkids," Duva said he won $250,000 betting on Holyfield.

Shelly Finkel, a former Holyfield handler who was in attendance at Saturday night's fight, has no doubt what Holyfield will do next.

"He'll fight Tyson," Finkel said. "That's what I think. That's where the money is."

There could be a problem with the rules, but when has that ever stopped King?

According to the bylaws of the major boxing organizations, immediate rematches are not permitted unless there was some protest or unresolved controversy in the first fight. The purpose of that rule is to assure that the top two fighters in a weight division don't monopolize title fights over a period of a year or more, leaving the rest of the division looking in from outside the ring.

But asked about those rules, Jose Sulaiman, personally uninvolved in this matter as the president of the rival World Boxing Council, didn't see the rules stopping Holyfield-Tyson II from going off in March.

"If it is a fight with interest all over the world," Sulaiman said, "I think it would be permitted. This fight was very good for boxing."

And especially for the heavyweight division.

Prior to Saturday night, it was a one-man division in the public's perception, with everybody else getting in line for the inevitable beating by Tyson.

But now, Tyson has proven to be human. His other defeat, to Buster Douglas in 1990, was written off by many as an aberration, an upset caused by Tyson's lack of conditioning and a lack of interest in his then-unheralded opponent, along with a series of personal problems that were distracting Tyson at the time.

There were no such excuses this time. Nor did Tyson try to manufacture any in Saturday's post-fight news conference. For the first time in his professional life, Tyson was not only beaten, but dominated.

Until Saturday, perhaps only a Tyson-George Foreman matchup was a guaranteed box-office winner.

Now, fighters such as Moorer, Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis have all gained credibility. Douglas is also back in the picture, having launched a comeback after dropping out of boxing.

But they may all have to wait their turn if Holyfield-Tyson II turns from hype into reality.


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