Mirage or not? Wynn out to show it's boxers, not promoters, who make the fight

October 24, 1990|By Phil Jackman

LAS VEGAS -- Taking a look around, most guys would be more than a little upset. Particularly guys who had put up $40 million for the simple pleasure of watching two guys whack each other around.

Not Steve Wynn, the Mirage Hotel impresario who is making a mighty effort to rid the fight game of its own worst enemy -- scheming fight promoters.

From the moment, several months ago, Wynn won the rights to tomorrow night's Buster Douglas-Evander Holyfield fight for $32 million, the out-in-the-cold promoters have been sniping at him.

It's a fairly impressive list of adversaries: Don King, Bob Arum and the Duvas. But Wynn's reaction has been to toss his head back, laugh and tell you how amusing it has been to deal with these "flakes."

The last couple of days, days that are so important in drumming up pay-per-view and closed circuit business to cut Wynn's losses, give good indication of how formidable the enemy can be.

Gone are the hourly reports on the girth of Buster's belly and the latest moves Evander has perfected under the tutelage of ballerina Mareya Kennett.

Instead, there have been constant updates about who Holyfield will be fighting in his first defense after he steps by Douglas.

In boxing, they not only put the cart before the horse, they put it out there before the wheels are even on the thing.

Here's poor Buster making a triumphant return to the ring after a momentous victory over "unbeatable" Mike Tyson as a 42-to-1 underdog, and you'd think it was the old Buster, the one who lost to the likes of Mike White, David Bey and Jesse Ferguson, most often referred to simply as opponents.

It's all junk, of course, designed to minimize this joint Mirage-PPV production, thus proving that any fight truly worthwhile has to have a King or Arum stamp on it.

In just one more day, the undisputed champion will take on the No. 1 challenger for the last two years. So who really cares who is next up for the winner sometime next year? There's ample time to begin considering such eventualities come dawn's early light Friday.

Meantime, Wynn seems content pointing out, "The Mirage is a first-rate hotel in every respect and that goes for any event we bring in.

"As I've said many times before, fights are a good thing for Las Vegas. They invariably have been the catalyst for our most exciting weekends. The Mirage has to be known for a certain kind of fight and this one is one of those."

Still, with Arum's constant sniping in a column he writes for one of the city's daily newspapers, and King's grandiose announcements of future heavyweight matchups, Douglas and Holyfield almost come across as the chorus line.

And, unfortunately, both play the part so well. "No," said Wynn, "we don't have an Ali or a Leonard here. But, as George Foreman said recently, this could be the best heavyweight championship fight in 15 years."

Now, Wynn must wait to find out if the combatants' last words to the world in a final news conference today will cause some folks to dial up their cable company, or rush out to the Baltimore Arena to view tomorrow's fight.

Whether or not the Mirage gets most of its money back with this show means little to the fight fan. Success or a reasonable facsimile becomes important when one considers the alternative -- a return to the days of promoters ruling the heavyweight division with an iron hand (full of someone else's money).

Having gone for $680 million to build the Mirage, Steve Wynn doesn't give the impression of a guy who plans a leap from one of the penthouses if he comes up a slight loser.

He has a favorite expression he uses often: "Life's too short."

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