Tyson cancellation places Holyfield-Bowe in center stage

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS Riddick Bowe is sorry Mike Tyson is out of the way. Evander Holyfield couldn't care less.

Promoters of Saturday's rubber match between the two former heavyweight champions, meanwhile, are delighted their fight is back at center stage.

''We always felt we had the main event,'' said Seth Abraham, president of Time-Warner Sports, which is doing the pay-per-view telecast. ''We hung in there with all of them. We didn't fold when we had every chance to do so.''

Tyson's fractured right thumb meant a full house at Wednesday's final prefight news conference for the third and presumably final fight between Bowe and Holyfield.

It may have meant more for the promotion, though, than the fighters, who downplayed Tyson's absence from the weekend fight scene on the Las Vegas Strip.

''It doesn't matter to me,'' Holyfield said. ''Our fight wasn't against people across the street . I had to prepare for my fight.''

Bowe was a bit more charitable, if only because his fight lost a chance to top Tyson's expected mismatch at the MGM Grand Hotel with Buster Mathis Jr. at the box office.

''I thought it was unfortunate,'' Bowe said. ''I wanted people to prove what they thought was the better fight.''

The Bowe-Holyfield fight was always expected to be the best fight on the rival cards. Now that it is the only fight, it figures to benefit from the increased media attention both in ticket sales and pay-per-view buys.

That could translate into a near sellout at the 15,000-seat outdoor arena at Caesars Palace, where the second Bowe-Holyfield fight two years ago drew a paid crowd of 14,100. It could also rescue the pay-per-view, which had been threatened by the prospect of a Tyson-Mathis fight on free television.

''I think it will be a positive kick for both the live gate and the pay-per-view,'' said Rich Rose, president of sports at Caesars Palace.

While Tyson's fractured thumb was still the main buzz at the final prefight news conference, the attention began to shift to the fight featuring what many believe are the two best active heavyweights in the business.

Bowe upset Holyfield in their first fight in November 1992 to win the undisputed heavyweight title, then lost a narrow decision a year later in a rematch marked by the flight into the ring by the ''Fan Man'' that caused a 21-minute delay in the seventh round.

This time, no title is at stake after Holyfield refused to fight for Bowe's WBO crown.

''This fight will be better than both of them,'' Holyfield promised. ''I'll just take him out. No doubt about it, I'll take him out.''

The prediction drew a chuckle from Bowe, who has looked impressive in recent fights, including a June 7 knockout of Cuban Jorge Luis Gonzales.

''I can tell you right now that won't happen. He knows it won't happen. It's just wishful thinking,'' Bowe said.

Bowe is a 21/2-1 favorite to win the scheduled 12-round fight, which will be held outdoors under predictions of cool temperatures and a possibility of rain.

The underdog has won both times in the two previous fights, however, which were both decision wins.

Holyfield will be fighting only the second time since retiring with a heart problem after losing the heavyweight titles to Michael Moorer. He was later cleared by doctors to return to the ring, winning a decision May 20 over Ray Mercer.

''At my best I'm the best,'' the two-time former champion said. ''And I look forward to being my best.''

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