Suitors get in line, eager for piece of Tyson

March 24, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

Early tomorrow morning, Mike Tyson apparently will be leaving the Indiana Youth Center in style, whisked from the prison walls in a limousine.

The former heavyweight champion may be accompanied by spiritual adviser Muhammad Siddeeq, who reportedly will be on hand when Tyson -- joined by another ex-champion, Muhammad Ali -- recites Islamic prayers outside the Indianapolis prison where he has served three years for rape.

But who will be Tyson's fellow passenger on his ride -- erstwhile promoter Don King or an aspirant to King's position?

"That's a multimillion-dollar question," said Butch Lewis, former manager of Michael Spinks and one of Tyson's many visitors during his imprisonment.

"At least six guys think they have a chance to promote or manage Mike," said Lewis, listing Rock Newman, Shelly Finkel, Bob Arum and Bill Cayton as boxing power brokers who either visited or sent emissaries to woo Tyson. "Check with President Clinton. He probably tried to see Tyson, too."

Added Newman, who has been hyping a proposed showdown $$ between former Brooklyn, N.Y., buddies Tyson and Riddick Bowe to Madison Square Garden: "Everyone wants a piece of Mike. They're going to be all over him like vultures on a T-bone steak."

No wonder. Arum has estimated that a single fight -- Tyson's proposed match with George Foreman -- would be worth $250 million in gross revenue.

But King, who lured Tyson away from Cayton in 1988, appears to remain in the driver's seat.

"I feel I'm tighter with Mike than I've ever been," King said before leaving for an anticipated reunion with Tyson outside the prison gates.

"Anyone who doubts that he'll fight for me is wishful thinking. The only prayer they've got is if I go to jail," said King, who faces a trial for insurance fraud.

"Mike will become boxing's first billionaire. I've already been deluged with calls from Brazil, France, England and South Africa."

In the next breath, King said: "We have not even discussed boxing with Mike. People who get caught up in marketing fights become mercenary and lose sight of the significant fact that Mike had his freedom taken away from him.

"Next to life, liberty is the biggest thing. I think the public recognizes Mike was innocent, but he's not bitter or hostile. He's back on the high road."

King managed to keep close ties during the past three years with Indiana prisoner No. 922335 through two of his employees, Rory Holloway and John Horne, neighborhood chums from Tyson's days in Catskill, N.Y., whom the fighter has appointed as his co-managers.

King also can guarantee Tyson quick access to a piece of the heavyweight crown. He holds promotional ties to current World Boxing Council champion Oliver McCall, who defends his title against Larry Holmes April 8.

On that same Las Vegas show, Tony Tucker and Bruce Seldon, two more heavyweights allied with King, will fight for the vacant World Boxing Association crown.

And King has not been reluctant to exploit the prison experience he and Tyson share.

"I did four years [for manslaughter]; Mike did only three," King zTC recently told Newsday. "Categorically, he will adjust. He made the time serve him. By me doing those four years, he had a tutor that understood."

If he had to make a bet, Lewis said, he would wager that King's persuasive powers will win back Tyson.

Said Lewis: "The last time I visited Mike in jail, I told him, 'If you got King in the ring, he'd stand no chance. But in his own arena, you're just as much a sitting duck.' Don is enough of a magician to steal a guy's underwear without him knowing.

"I really think Mike will try to be more independent. In fact, he told me, 'If I'm going to fight George Foreman first, I'll have Butch Lewis with me.' But right now, he's like a one-man conglomerate. He can make stocks soar on Wall Street by signing an exclusive deal with a cable-TV company or gambling casino."

Arum, King's archrival, also has preached the wisdom of Tyson's remaining a free agent.

"Tyson doesn't need King," Arum said. "He can make $20 million fighting nobodies. But his biggest payday is with Foreman [an Arum ally], who won't fight Mike if King is involved. I wouldn't be looking to sign Tyson to a million options. Just let me have him for that one fight."

Cayton, who, along with the late Jim Jacobs, guided Tyson to the undisputed heavyweight championship at 21, said King has not yet gained a stranglehold on Tyson.

"I don't think Mike has made a deal with any promoter," Cayton said. "And, if he goes back to live in the Catskills, I think there's a definite chance he'll be reunited with [former trainer] Kevin Rooney. I know he put out feelers to get back with him."

The other question surrounding Tyson is whether he again can become the merciless warrior who terrorized the heavyweight division for four years before his stunning upset by Buster Douglas in 1990. Emotionally and physically, Tyson may be quite different.

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