The heavyweight showdown between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, postponed Friday after it was disclosed Tyson suffered a rib injury in training Oct. 8, will be held the week of Jan. 20 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas -- before Tyson's rape trial is scheduled to begin -- if promoter Don King has his way.
The $100 million fight was originally scheduled for Nov. 8. Las Vegas orthopedist Gerald Higgins twice examined Tyson, who said he continued to experience pain after suffering the injury. Higgins recommended that Tyson refrain from training for six to eight weeks.
If Tyson needs more recovery time, it could run into his Jan. 27 trial date in Indianapolis, where he faces a grand jury indictment for raping a teen-age Miss Black America beauty pageant contestant.
Asked if Tyson would seek a postponement, King said: "The lawyers will take care of the court date. Because of a gag order, I can't address that issue. But Mike will definitely fight before the trial."
On Friday, however, Marion County Judge Patricia J. Gifford said she would not grant Tyson a trial postponement. Tyson's lawyer, Vincent Fuller, reportedly asked for the delay Oct. 9, the day after Tyson claimed his rib injury.
King kept stressing the importance of maintaining "the integrity of the sport" and not cheating the public by permitting Tyson to fight Holyfield being "less than 100 percent."
But Dan Duva, Holyfield's promoter and president of Main Events, Inc., was peeved that King had not made Tyson's training injury known before Friday night.
"The spies had us," King said. "The KGB was on our trail, with rumors that Mike was injured. Mike wanted to fight. He was getting better, and then he re-injured it [the left rib cartilage] doing sit-ups.
"Mike stopped sparring, but when he continued to experience pain doing exercises, we had to let everyone involved know he couldn't fight, Nov. 8. "We couldn't perpetuate a fraud on he public. We want everyone to be above board. This fight has to be treated with honesty and integrity at all costs."
Although King said that Holyfield is obligated to make Tyson his next title opponent, Duva insisted there was no such agreement.
"All I can say for certain now is that Evander will not fight Nov. 8," Duva said. "If we can arrange a Tyson fight by the week of Jan. 20, that will be his next fight. But if it is longer than that, than Evander will fight someone in the interim."
Holyfield said yesterday he was thumbed in the left eye during a Friday workout, causing it to swell, but the injury would not have caused a delay in the fight.
Caesars Palace operations officer Dave Reichartz said the hotel, sold out for Nov. 8, will stage a fight card that night featuring unbeaten young heavyweights Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis and Michael Moorer against opponents to be named.
Reichartz said he is working with Duva and TVKO president Seth Abraham in solidifying a date the week of Jan. 20, depending, of course, on Tyson's full recovery.
"We're not looking for ways to get out of the fight," said King. "We're looking for ways to get it on. The week before the Super Bowl would be a propitious date working in the time frame of Tyson being fully healthy."
After all the talking, it was still unclear exactly how Tyson hurt himself. At first, Higgins intimated that Tyson had suffered a rib -- injury doing exercises, but Higgins later said, "It was after he got hit."
"After he first experienced pain, I put him on painkillers, like a dentist using a novocaine," said Higgins. "I stopped his sparring, but when he was experiencing pain from normal exercise, I told him it would be foolish and immoral for him to go through with the fight."
Tyson will try to maintain his condition by working with therapist Keith Kleven, who has recommended pool exercises for the next two weeks.
Holyfield will take a break in training to attend the World Series next week in his hometown of Atlanta.