LAS VEGAS -- The management team for heavyweight title challenger Evander Holyfield has called promoter Don King's bluff.
Despite mounting pressure from King and boxing's three leading organizations, Holyfield's managers yesterday reinforced their decision to select George Foreman over Mike Tyson as Holyfield's next opponent if Holyfield defeats champion James "Buster" Douglas on Thursday night at The Mirage.
King, who has promotional rights to both Douglas and Tyson, said he has gained the support of the World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association in insisting that Tyson get the next shot at the heavyweight title. If Holyfield or Douglas does otherwise, boxing's organizations could strip him of his title.
Tyson lost his crown to Douglas in an upset in Tokyo last February.
"It's absurd," said Dan Duva, Holyfield's promoter for Main Events Inc. "In Tokyo, King and the WBC and WBA tried to strip Douglas 30 seconds after he beat Tyson. Now they're threatening to strip Holyfield even before he's fought Douglas for the championship."
Duva said he offered King a Tyson fight with Holyfield two weeks ago, but informed the promoter he already had solicited bids on a Holyfield-Foreman match.
"[Promoter] Bob Arum offered us $20 million to fight Foreman. King offered only $18 million for Tyson, so we took the Foreman deal," Duva said. "And now King is trying to say we reneged on a deal we never made."
Holyfield has what Duva called an "insurance policy" to fight Foreman in a non-title bout should he lose to Douglas on Thursday.
"Of course, that will be for a lot less money," Duva said. "They'd both get around $3 million. If Holyfield beats Douglas, than Foreman will get $12 million to fight him. But King will have no part in the promotion."
Duva also suggested that Douglas could not be made to fight Tyson next since Holyfield, ranked No. 1 by all three boxing groups, is the champion's mandatory title defense.
"King is raising all this fuss because he lied to Tyson and is now trying to cover his butt," said Duva. "He guaranteed Tyson that he would get the next title shot, and now he can't deliver."
Tyson is scheduled to fight Alex Stewart in Atlantic City, N.J., on Nov. 13.
King disagreed with Duva's assessment, telling The Boston Globe: "They're getting away like bandits. If Don King did this, he's a bandit. But I say they got a good business deal."
Duva said he is fearful that if King does not get his way with Holyfield, he will cancel an already signed rematch between junior welterweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor. King handles Chavez, and Duva promotes Taylor's bouts.