Negotiations for an Evander Holyfield-George Foreman heavyweight championship rematch in Las Vegas March 30 are at a standstill, and Holyfield's financial advisers have now turned their attention to top-ranked title contender Riddick Bowe, of Fort Washington.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's off," Bob Arum, president of Top Rank, Inc., said of Holyfield-Foreman II, which would have guaranteed both fighters $12 million.
"They [Dan Duva and Shelly Finkel of Main Events, Inc., Holyfield's managers] want to make the fight conditional on all three sanctioning bodies -- the WBC, WBA and IBF -- approving the match, and George won't go along with it."
But Finkel said yesterday that Foreman was still a possibility.
"Nothing is easy in boxing," Finkel said. "We really need the approval of Jose Sulaiman [president of the World Boxing Council] for this fight. If he strips Holyfield for fighting Foreman, that would void our contract to fight Tyson this summer, if he is acquitted of his rape charge. [Mike Tyson goes to trial in Indianapolis Jan. 27 for allegedly raping a beauty pageant contestant].
"Even if we turn to Bowe, who is ranked right behind Tyson by the WBC," said Finkel, "Sulaiman has told us he won't recognize the match as Holyfield's 'mandatory' title defense.
"That makes no sense if Tyson is not available to fight Holyfield in the next few months. But Dan hopes to iron all this out with Sulaiman in the next few days."
Sulaiman, a close ally of promoter Don King, wanted Duva and Arum to guarantee that the winner of Holyfield-Foreman would meet Tyson, the former heavyweight champion who is King's major attraction.
"That's crazy," said Arum. "No one knows whether Tyson will be cleared of his rape charges. If he's convicted of rape, I know George would never fight him."
Foreman, who turns 42 Friday, is eager to regain at least a share of the heavyweight crown he lost to Muhammmad Ali in Zaire in 1974.
Instead of again fighting Holyfield, who won a 12-round decision in their title match last April, Foreman is expected to challenge the winner of the Ray Mercer-Larry Holmes bout for the World Boxing Organization title in Atlantic City, N.J., Feb. 7.
Meanwhile, Duva has spent the last two days in New Jersey with Rock Newman, promoter-manager of the unbeaten (28-0) Bowe.
Said Newman: "I'm always looking to create a situation where Riddick can become heavyweight champion of the world. But, quite frankly, I don't think Holyfield's people are that anxious to fight him because we've held a number of similar conversations in the past."
Despite tough talk, Newman did not appear eager to pursue proposed matches for Bowe against either Tyson or Mercer.
But Newman and Bowe's veteran trainer, Eddie Futch, believe their fighter has all the equipment to beat Holyfield, who was severely tested by journeyman Bert Cooper in his most recent title defense.
Nothing has been signed, but Holyfield's camp was already heralding Bowe as a more attractive opponent than Foreman.
"He's a fresh face," said Kathy Duva, wife of Dan Duva and chief publicist for Main Events. "And I think Evander would get himself psyched to fight Bowe. He needs a real challenge to be at his best."