Holyfield offers title shot to Damiani If Italian says no, Holmes may be next

October 24, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

Just 24 hours after putting injured Mike Tyson on hold, heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield's advisers have offered a late November title fight to unranked Francesco Damiani, of Italy, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

As of last night, Damiani had not accepted the offer from Holyfield's promoter, Dan Duva. Damiani (27-1, 23 KOs) has been idle since losing his World Boxing Organization crown to Ray Mercer in Atlantic City last January.

Holyfield pushed for a championship match next month after his scheduled Nov. 8 showdown with Tyson was postponed indefinitely when the former champion suffered a rib injury in training, Oct. 8.

Efforts to reschedule the $100 million fight before Tyson's pending Jan. 27 trial in Indianapolis for alleged rape of an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant proved futile.

Duva had been left with a Nov. 8 boxing show at Caesars Palace featuring unbeaten heavyweights Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis and Michael Moorer, all viewed as future Holyfield opponents. But TVKO pulled the plug yesterday, canceling the entire card.

"They [TVKO] were more interested in having Holyfield on their cable network later in the month," said Kathy Duva, spokeswoman for Main Events Inc. "Whoever Evander fights, Caesars Palace will probably move it indoors and charge less money."

If Damiani is not available, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, 41, who mounted a comeback in April, and journeyman Alex Garcia, of California, are listed as prospective foes.

Hearing of Holyfield's revised title plans, Don King, who serves as Tyson's financial adviser, was surprisingly subdued, issuing a brief statement through publicist Jon Solberg.

Said King, "While our contract with Holyfield does permit an interim fight in the event of an injury to one of the participants, Mike Tyson is disappointed that Holyfield would put in jeopardy the fight the public wants to see.

"Mike Tyson is awaiting clearance from his doctors and will assess his position at that time."

Al Braverman, King's matchmaker, was more outspoken. "If King had tried matching Tyson with a tomato can like Damiani, the media would roast him on a spit. How can they get away with matching Holyfield against an unranked fighter?"

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