Tyson to face Mathis in tuneup for championship bout

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS Mike Tyson will fight Buster Mathis Jr. on Nov. 4 in his final tuneup before fighting for part of the heavyweight title in March, his handlers said Tuesday.

Stung by criticism of Tyson's aborted first comeback fight Saturday night against Peter McNeeley, promoter Don King unveiled a schedule that has Tyson challenging for a world title in his third fight March 16.

''Mike Tyson wants everyone to know he feels the edge was taken from him as well as Peter McNeeley,'' King said. ''The level of opponent will be escalated for the second fight and Mike Tyson will fight for the title in his third fight.''

King said the opponent for Tyson's first title shot has not been determined, but the promoter in effect controls all three portions of the heavyweight title.

King defended Tyson's fight against McNeeley, but said he would drop pay-per-view prices for the Nov. 4 bout because both he and Tyson feel bad about the way the fight ended with McNeeley's manager, Vinny Vecchione, throwing in the towel.

''No one expected Peter McNeeley to win a fight against Mike Tyson,'' King said at a news conference. ''People came to see Mike Tyson. It was a happening, an event. It was not meant to be a championship fight.''

King praised McNeeley for going right after Tyson, but assailed Vecchione for stepping into the ring and forcing the fight to be stopped 89 seconds into the first round with McNeeley still on his feet.

''If he was that concerned about his fighter he should have never put him in the ring,'' King said. ''He took from Peter McNeeley a moment of glory that is priceless and a moment of glory he can never recapture again.''

King said he would promote McNeeley again, but not with Vecchione working his corner.

''Never will he ever get a chance to make a mistake like he did the other night,'' the promoter said.

King said Tyson would fight Mathis on a card at the MGM Grand hotel that could include heavyweight title fights involving WBA champion Bruce Seldon and WBC champion Oliver McCall, who defends his title next month against Frank Bruno.

The card will also feature Julio Cesar Chavez in a bout against fellow Mexican champion, lightweight Miguel Angel Gonzalez.

It will go up against the third fight between heavyweights Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield, which is scheduled just down the Las Vegas Strip at Caesars Palace on the same night.

Both fights are set for pay-per-view, with King using Showtime Event Television, and the other fight on rival TVKO, which is operated by Home Box Office.

''If we go head-to-head on pay-per-view, I'm going to the mat,'' King said. ''His cablecast will be pay-per-view. Mine will be pay-per-view. Let's see who the people want. I predict they end up going on HBO.''

King hedged about whether Mathis was the formal opponent for the Nov. 4 fight, saying he wanted to see how the selection was taken by the boxing media. But Tyson's manager, John Horne, said Mathis was the pick.

''We're fighting Buster Mathis Jr. on Nov. 4,'' Horne said.

Mathis is 20-0, but is a light hitter with only six knockouts in his career. His biggest claim to fame came last year when his bout with Riddick Bowe was ruled a no contest after Bowe hit him after he was already down in the fourth round of the fight.

King claimed Saturday night's fight was the biggest grossing fight in history, bringing in more than $85 million worldwide.

The bout was bought by about 1 million homes and all but 200 tickets were sold in the 16,736-seat MGM Grand arena at prices ranging from $100 to $1,500.

Both he and Horne denied that the lower prices for the Nov. 4 card were needed to lure fans to buy a Tyson fight now that the curiosity factor has diminished with his first appearance in more than four years.

''The people have shown they are going to support Mike Tyson,'' Horne said.

Horne said Tyson was back at his Ohio home on Tuesday and hadn't had a chance to reflect on the fight. He said the fact Tyson came back quickly after McNeeley landed a left hook while brawling with him showed the former heavyweight champion's reflexes are still there.

''He feels comfortable with his performance,'' Horne said. ''He's just satisfied he performed well enough to get out of the fight. A fighter whose skills were gone couldn't have won that fight. It was all by instinct.''

King, who talked for 45 minutes before answering questions, also took up a challenge from rival promoter Bob Arum for a Tyson fight against George Foreman.

Arum on Monday said the fight could take place with each fighter guaranteed $15 million and the winner getting another $70 million or so but only if King wasn't handling the money.

''We'd consider fighting George Foreman with Bob Arum,'' King said. ''But we don't need an outside third party to handle the money. I trust Bob Arum.''

King also challenged Arum to promote a fight between Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya, who is promoted by Arum. King said he would stand aside and let Arum do the promotion if the two were equal partners.

''That match can be made immediately,'' King said. ''We can dislike each other to our respective banks.''

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