With the Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson heavyweight championship fight jeopardized because of Tyson's recent rib injury and his pending Jan. 27 trial in Indianapolis for alleged rape of a teen-age beauty pageant contestant, promoter Rock Newman began a vigorous campaign yesterday for No. 2-ranked Riddick Bowe of Fort Washington to become Holyfield's next mandatory title defense.
Advisers to Holyfield, who owns the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation championship belts, were trying to arrange a Jan. 20 date with Tyson at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the week before the Super Bowl.
But the uncertainty of how long it will take Tyson to recover fully from the injury he suffered in training on Oct. 8, and a near-conflict with World Wrestling Federation's "Royal Rumble" on pay-per-view TV on Jan. 19, has made rescheduling the $100 million fight difficult.
Dan Duva, Holyfield's promoter, said he was considering booking an interim fight for the champion. Newman wants to make certain that, if this is the case, Bowe is not bypassed "for a lesser opponent."
Newman called Duva yesterday to issue a formal challenge to Holyfield, but was told that Tyson's status was the immediate concern. A decision involving the troubled Tyson bout could be made as soon as today, said Shelly Finkel, Holyfield's adviser.
"Holyfield faces a mandatory defense of his WBC belt," Newman said. "Bowe is next in line after Tyson, and I reminded [WBC president] Jose Sulaiman of that fact. Still, I'm hearing other names like Michael Moorer, Alex Garcia and [South Africa's] Pierre Coetzer being tossed around, and that concerns me."
Newman said he has the full support of Bowe's venerable trainer, Eddie Futch, in challenging Holyfield to an immediate fight.
"Eddie believes styles makes fights, and he thinks Riddick has both the style and power to beat Holyfield today."
Bowe is scheduled to fight journeyman Elijah Tillery in the main event at the Washington Convention Center on Oct. 29.
"If we get the Holyfield match," said Newman, "then Riddick won't fight Oct. 29, but we will keep the rest of the show intact."
Newman has tried to promote this show by saying Tillery, one of Tyson's regular sparring partners, caused the former champion's rib injury.
This was disputed yesterday by Tyson's trainer, Richie Giachetti, who told the New York Post, "Mike's ribs got banged up when he was sparring with Ricky Milton or Mike Dixon, not Tillery."