If Ruddock-Tyson fight resumes, so should ticket

April 01, 1991|By Bob Raissman | Bob Raissman,New York Daily News

Don King has been involved in many monumental boxing -- as he would say -- extravaganzas, and some lesser ones where his sheer promotional genius turned shlock into silver, garbage into gold.

King has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat both on the promotional front and his own personal court battles. History -- both recent and past -- tells us King is not only a master of Rap, but a professional in the realm of escapeology, also known in King World as trickeration.

But all past King "achievements" would pale in comparison to the opportunity now staring this master of fistic illusion straight in the face. King stands on the precipice of making a monumental sports TV decision. In fact, the decision would be the first historic moment in the embryonic world of Pay-Per-View TV.

To build a foundation for King's possible decision -- which I will challenge him to make shortly -- we must examine a statement the Only In America Man -- now sporting camouflage fatigues and promoting under the moniker of Mr. Desert Storm II -- made while announcing a rematch between Mike Tyson and Donovan "Mellow Yellow" Ruddock.

Here's what King said: "In dealing with this type of controversy [Richard Steele's controversial stoppage of Tyson-Ruddock I], the public should not be left in doubt. They paid money to see an event and the event isn't over."

This is a flat-out admission by King that, like a televised dramatic miniseries, Tyson-Ruddock I wasn't finished and Tyson-Ruddock II is a mere continuation.

That being the case, I challenge Mr. Don King to step before a battery of microphones at a location of his choice and say this: "Fans who paid the $34.95 for Tyson-Ruddock I will get the second fight for free or, at the least, a discounted price." End of statement. Start of the new honesty-in-PPV era.

If Showtime event TV boss Scott Kurnitt -- he's King's PPV TV partner -- is reading this column, he is now spitting a mouth full of Rice Krispies across his kitchen. When King hears about this he will likely laugh and welcome me to the lunatic fringe. Not for one second do I expect King, even after admitting fans did not see a complete event on March 18, to give the second fight away for free or at a discount.

"The chances of Don King giving anything away are slimmer than slim," said Shelly Finkel, Evander Holyfield's adviser and a man King ain't going to party down with any time soon. "Before Don would give anything away free his hair would go down."

This is an assessment even King would likely agree with. But both Finkel and King, and anyone involved in PPV, should know this: Even the most serious fight fans, people who gladly will spring for the bucks to catch a PPV card, already are ticked off.

Last week, I received a letter from Bob Mladinich of Woodside. The content of his letter revealed he is exactly the guy promoters like King, Dan Duva, and Bob Arum are marketing PPV events to.

The depth of his love for televised boxing is captured in his opening statement: "I was a most ardent devotee of the sweet science, even in times of convoluted controversy and the many occasions where the integrity of the sport was more than a wee bit suspect. In fact, so loyal was my devotion, that I was one of the dimwits that paid $19.95 to watch two bloated behemoths masquerading as fighters named Tim Witherspoon and Carl (The Truth?) Williams bellybop each other for 12 of the most tedious rounds in boxing history."

Mladinich went on to say that Tyson-Ruddock I, and the circumstances surrounding the end of the fight, was the last straw. He won't be buying any more PPV fights. "I'm afraid if I don't walk away now," he wrote, "the fetid taste in my mouth will never go away."

It may be a pipe dream to think King will give viewers of Tyson-Ruddock I a bucks-break on the second fight. But D.K. and other promoters must realize if the list of Mladinichs continues to grow, the PPV golden goose will rust dead before it even had a chance to glitter.

So, take the challenge Don. It's put up or shut up time.

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