There has been lively bidding for a shot at Evander Holyfield's heavyweight title. Larry Holmes appeared to be the big winner yesterday, and Riddick Bowe a heavy loser.
A formal announcement will likely come Monday, but a Holyfield-Holmes championship match now appears a certainty for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in May, according to Shelly Finkel, Holyfield's chief financial adviser.
Finkel and Dan Duva will meet with Holyfield in Miami this weekend to reach agreement on the details. Holyfield will be guaranteed $21 million and Holmes, a former champ, an estimated $10 million from TVKO, which holds pay-per-view rights.
Bowe, an unbeaten heavyweight from Fort Washington who is ranked No. 2 by the World Boxing Council, seemed to have the inside track after a proposed Holyfield-Mike Tyson fight was doomed by Tyson's conviction Monday in Indianapolis for the rape of a teen-age beauty pageant contest.
Duva first offered the match to Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, who, Duva said, had tentatively agreed to the fight if Tyson were unavailable.
But when Newman spent two days bargaining for a bigger purse, Finkel turned his attention to Holmes, 42, who scored a 12-round upset over previously unbeaten Ray Mercer in Atlantic City, N.J., on Friday.
Holmes is represented by promoter Bob Arum, who helped convince TVKO president Seth Abraham that Holyfield-Holmes would be a bigger attraction than Holyfield-Bowe. Arum then spent Wednesday arranging site terms with Rich Rose, the sports director of Caesars Palace.
"No one really knows who Bowe is," Arum said. "The only decent fighter he's beaten is [former champion] Tony Tubbs, and everyone thought he lost that fight. Holmes is a much bigger draw."
Arum also represents George Foreman, another over-40 former champion. Last April, Foreman lost a 12-round decision to Holyfield and was seeking a title rematch.
"George is fighting Alex Stewart in Las Vegas, April 11, and will have another fight in July," Arum said. "By fall, he'll be ready to fight the Holyfield-Holmes winner."
Meanwhile, Newman is seeking other options for Bowe and accusing Duva of reneging on a contract agreement to fight Holyfield.
"At 9 p.m. Wednesday night, I accepted their original offer, which had Bowe getting under $10 million," Newman said. "I called their bluff. But I believe they had already made up their minds to fight Holmes.
"I think Holyfield is a true champion and will fight anyone. But Duva and Finkel are afraid he'll get beat by Bowe, and keep damaging Evander's reputation," Newman said.
"Holyfield is copying Joe Louis in the 1940s by fighting the Bum of the Month. He won the title from a blimp named Buster Douglas. Then he fought a 250-pound old man named Foreman and almost got knocked out by a journeyman named Bert Cooper. So fighting Holmes, a grandfather, makes sense.
"But we won't shed any tears. Riddick is still only 24. We'll just wait our turn, even if it comes next spring."