LAS VEGAS -- Imagine Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson, two tough heavyweights from the same Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn, meeting each other in the richest boxing match in history this November at Madison Square Garden. The fighters and the promotion would net a guaranteed minimum of $120 million from a Garden crowd of 20,000 fans paying an average of $1,000 per seat and from a pay-per-view audience of at least 2 million homes.
That scenario is not a figment of Rock Newman's imagination. The numbers are real. If Bowe won the fringe World Boxing Organization title from Herbie Hide last night at the MGM Grand Garden, Bowe's manager will outline that financial package for Tyson in a meeting with him tomorrow at the Indiana Youth Correctional Facility in Plainfield, where Tyson is incarcerated until his scheduled release March 25.
"There's a huge interest in fighting at Madison Square Garden," Newman said Wednesday. "I work for a guy [Bowe] who loves New York."
As for the prospect of a live gate of $20 million and a guaranteed minimum of $120 million for the promotion and the fighters, Newman said without qualification: "That is available. It's there. I'm negotiating with an operation that is prepared to do that if we take it there. These are bona fide numbers."
According to Newman's plan, the fight would be held in November after Tyson fights a couple of tune-up bouts to get rid of the ring rust after his three-year sentence for a rape conviction. The financial package was put together without the involvement of anyone representing Tyson, who has not yet made public his decision regarding a promoter. But Newman said he would work with whomever Tyson chooses, even if he decides to return to his former promoter, Don King.
Newman declined to identify the investors with whom he is negotiating, but New York-based attorney Milt Chwasky, who is Newman's point man in the negotiations, said the investors "are very legitimate. They're real."
Madison Square Garden officials have not been contacted. Normally, the Garden can't compete with casinos that pay site fees as high as $6 million to the promoters of major fights in order to attract customers to their gambling tables. But in this case, the promotion would rent Madison Square Garden based on the idea that placing the fight in New York would generate a tremendous amount of publicity that, in turn, would boost pay-per-view sales.
"The spin coming out of the Garden would be more than for a fight at the MGM, Caesars or the Mirage," Chwasky said. "You have two New York guys from the same neighborhood. The constant international spotlight would accelerate the pay-per-view buys."
The record number of homes reached for a pay-per-view fight was 1.8 million for the Evander Holyfield-George Foreman fight on April 19, 1991. The universe of addressable homes has expanded since then, and a fight between Bowe, who generally is regarded as the best active heavyweight, and Tyson, a former champion whose vicious ring demeanor made him a popular gate attraction, is certain to reach at least 2 million homes. "This is the ultimate," Chwasky said, referring to the financial potential for Bowe-Tyson. "This is the big bang."
The $120 million figure the promotion could earn includes pay-per-view, the live gate, foreign sales, merchandising and sponsorship fees. Newman has put together a group of pay-per-view distributors, including TVKO, which is affiliated with HBO. The pay-per-view price would be in the range of $69-$79 with $35 from each subscription going to the promotion. It's also possible the fight would be shown first in theaters on closed-circuit followed by a delayed telecast on pay-per-view that would sell for $29. Pay-per-view distributors based their guarantee on sales to 9 percent of address-able homes, but they project audience penetration of 14 percent, which would send profits much higher.
An average ticket price of $1,000 at Madison Square Garden would be the highest in boxing history, but Chwasky said he expects casinos would buy tickets for their best customers. "Barbra Streisand got $350 per seat [for her concert tour last year], but people were selling seats for as high as $1,000," Chwasky said. "This would be one of the biggest events in the history of sports. It's a one-time event. People will pay to be there."
Two things still have to happen for Bowe-Tyson at Madison Square Garden to come off. Bowe had to beat Hide, and then, Newman has to convince Tyson to accept the deal rather than fight 46-year-old IBF champion Foreman. Judging by his serious demeanor Wednesday at the final pre-fight news conference, Bowe was serious about the little-known but dangerous Hide, who was born in Nigeria but grew up in England. Hide has knocked out 25 of his 26 opponents.
"Riddick is in the best shape I've seen him since he won the title from Evander Holyfield," trainer Eddie Futch said.
"I told him this is the most important fight of his career because of the politics in boxing today," Futch said.