Tyson: Ready To Fight Lewis

Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Mike Tyson said Monday he's ready to fight heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis this summer, telling his manager to start negotiations as soon as possible for a fight that could be the richest ever.

The fight still faces huge hurdles before it could be made, but Tyson and Lewis are now both on the record as saying they want to fight sometime this year.

``Mike would love to have this fight as his birthday gift,'' manager Shelly Finkel said of the former heavyweight champion, who turns 35 on June 30. ``If Lennox is serious about making this fight, there's nothing avoiding it happening on our end.''

Lewis' business manager, Adrian Ogun, said on Sunday he was ready to begin talks for the fight, but said he wasn't sure if Tyson's camp wanted the fight.

Finkel said he called Tyson on Monday and got the former champion's approval for the fight.

``Let's get it on,'' Finkel quoted Tyson as saying.

The fight could surpass the second Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight as the richest ever, with revenues of more than $100 million and purses of $30 million for each fighter. But, despite the willingness of both fighters to meet, it is still a long way from reality.

Lewis is under contract to HBO, while Tyson has a contract with Showtime, and unless the cable channels can come to an agreement there will be no fight. In addition, the two camps would have to agree on purses, with both fighters feeling they should get the bigger payday.

``I believe we're worth more because we bring the money,'' Finkel said. ``Mike is the biggest attraction here.''

Lewis has said all along he wants to fight Tyson, but Tyson has been reluctant in his latest comeback to commit himself to a challenge for the WBC and IBF titles.

Tyson, currently suspended for testing positive for marijuana after his October fight with Andrew Golota, said prior to that fight that he needed three or four fights before taking on Lewis.

That apparently has now changed, though, and Finkel said Tyson will be ready after his next fight, which will be in late April or May against David Izon.

``We're ready to make the fight. If Lennox is free to make it, we're ready to sit down immediately,'' Finkel said.

The TV contracts figure to be the biggest sticking point, with both HBO and Showtime demanding that they do what could be the biggest pay-per-view fight ever.

Showtime executive producer Jay Larkin said his network stepped aside to allow Holyfield to fight Lewis twice on HBO and wasn't about to step aside again.

`We've drawn a line in the and with a great, big fat stick,'' Larkin said. ``It cannot happen on HBO without a significant compelling reason for us to make it happen.''

Still, Larkin said he would listen if HBO came calling.

``We would entertain any proposal, but so far all we've gotten is some posturing,'' he said. ``There's only one person who can make this fight a reality and that's Lennox Lewis. When Lennox truly wants to make this fight, he'll come out of hiding and make it.''

HBO spokesman Ray Stallone said his network was also willing to discuss the fight with Showtime.

``Our door is open and we'll take any phone call and any meeting,'' Stallone said.