NEW YORK -- Even in boxing, the inevitable sometimes happens, so put it down for the fall, late September or November, somewhere in Las Vegas. Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. Anything else you read on the subject is just the hucksters haggling over the price.
The two sides -- Dan Duva and Shelly Finkel for the champion, Don King for Tyson -- have yet to meet face to face, but already they have moved closer.
King started by demanding parity, 50-50. Holyfield is insisting on two-thirds, one-third. King already has accepted Holyfield's championship right to $5-$6 million more; Finkel has said 60-40 is "close."
Both sides agree that $50 million is not the kind of pot you spit in. Off a 60-40 split, Holyfield would get $30 million -- and become the first athlete to make more than $50 million in a calendar year -- Tyson $20 million. Already, they're only a few million apart. It ain't gonna be easy, though.
Duva flinched as soon as he heard Finkel go to 60-40. One thing he said he learned representing the Teamsters union, "You don't negotiate with yourself."
"Sixty-forty? I don't think so," he said. "I don't think Evander wants to take less than two-thirds."
At a TVKO-HBO news conference here yesterday gloating over the record pay-per-view sales done for his victory last Friday over George Foreman, Holyfield was indeed talking tough. He accepted a 75-25 cut to get the opportunity to win the title from James "Buster" Douglas last Oct. 25 and had agreed to a two-thirds, one-third split with Tyson for the match that Douglas prevented last year.
"We're going to go by the same rules I went by," he said, referring to the 75-25 split that goes whenever a mandatory challenger -- in this case, Tyson -- cannot agree to terms with the champion and the bout goes to purse offers. "Why do the rules change when I become champion?"
But do not think Holyfield is ducking Tyson. He wants him, same as he wanted him for a year and a half when he was Tyson's mandatory challenger. The key is that Tyson wants Holyfield, and forget anything the hucksters might say about each other in the coming weeks.
Duva and Finkel still believe King would prefer to keep Tyson for his own pay-per-view outlet, KingVision. But this is a fight that is inevitable because, frankly, it's too big and too precarious. They can't let it build. Neither man is invincible.
In fact, King is not the real danger. Razor Ruddock is. Tyson has some unfinished business -- the stuff Richard Steele stopped prematurely last month -- a June 28 rematch against Ruddock.
Holyfield, meanwhile, is guts and chin and determination, but he is not big punch or great boxing skills and almost every match he is in is a real fight.