Hardly had Actress Robin Givens departed from heavyweight champion Mike Tyson's life than Don King, hair at attention as always, came swooping in from the wings. Battered by eight months of matrimonial misadventures, Tyson was obviously in no condition to repel the fast-talking promoter's assault. Two weeks ago, King reportedly signed Tyson to an exclusive four-year promotional agreement and also was granted a limited power of attorney by the fighter. Both the promotional agreement and the power of attorney may well be worthless.
The immediate victim of King's gambit was Bill Cayton, Tyson's beleaguered 70-year-old manager, who has a drawerful of multimillion-dollar title-defense contracts and, for the moment, no heavyweight champion willing to fulfill them. "He can't deliver the fighter," boasts King. "I can." For that, King wants a hearty slice of the financial pie.
Last weekend King, Cayton and Tyson were all in Las Vegas, where Tyson caused a brief stir when he told a press conference that he had joined King to copromote Saturday's Julio César Chávez-José Luis Ramírez lightweight championship fight at the Hilton Center (page 36). Tyson was beaming as he announced his new title, which was little more than an honorific—all promotional activities for the fight had long since been completed. But the co-promoter ploy was one more rivet joining the champion and King.
"Brilliant" was Cayton's dry comment on King's latest maneuver in the Tyson tug-of-war. "Just brilliant. What I don't do is provide a swashbuckling life-style as an inducement to sign illegal contracts. I feel very sad that Mike appears to have gone from a manipulative situation [his relationship with Givens] to another, far more manipulative situation. I sincerely wish that Mike would retreat for a while to the one place he felt peace and contentment, at home, in Catskill, New York, where he can think things out."
For his part, Tyson seemed quite content at King's elbow, where he has been permanently moored for nearly a month. "Hey, I don't want to talk about me," said Tyson, laughing last Thursday. "I'm a promoter. I want to talk about my fight [Chávez-Ramírez]. Hopefully I'm going to make a few dollars. Not that making money is a problem. My problem is in having money."
If he follows the schedule that Cayton has laid out for him, Tyson will have a lot more of that problem, given the amount of money—$50 million—that he stands to gross over the next 12 months. Three fights have already been negotiated: $6 million to fight British heavyweight Frank Bruno in Las Vegas in late January or early February; $10 million to take on Adilson Rodrigues in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 12; and another $10 million to fight Francesco Damiani in Italy in late May or early June. Three other fights have been penciled in: Carl Williams for late April; Evander Holy-field for late September; and George Foreman in Tokyo in December. "I say $50 million in one year, and I am being conservative," says Cayton. "There is no telling how much money this young man can earn in the next four or five years."
Therein lies the rub: $50 million without King, but less with him, for King doesn't work for nothing. He was paid $3 million, for example, to "copromote" the Tyson-Spinks bout in June, which barely required the services of a promoter. King's only real duty was to put together the undercard, which may have taken him all of two days and cost him an estimated $500,000.
If King succeeds in his bid to be Tyson's sole promoter for four years, he will receive millions in fees for services Tyson could often receive for free. For example, the Bruno fight is expected to wind up in the Las Vegas Hilton, which would foot the bill for the promotion as part of its live-site fee. The Damiani fight in Italy and the Rodrigues fight in Brazil are also expected to come with built-in promoters. In each case the fight sponsors are likely to say, understandably, "Hey, we're giving you a promoter for free. You want King, you pay him." Tyson's payday would be reduced accordingly; for example, if such an arrangement had been in force for the Tyson-Spinks bout, Tyson would have had to pay King's $3 million out of the $20 million he grossed that night.
But King may have overstepped himself. New York State boxing regulations prohibit a fighter from signing a promotional deal without his manager's consent. Cayton has said that he plans to file a complaint with the New York State Athletic Commission and that he may file suit against King to void the contract and collect damages. If King is suspended from promoting fights in New York, other state boxing commissions may take similar action.
Why would Tyson, whose encyclopedic knowledge of boxing history must certainly include a chapter on fighters who have been financially exploited, decide to embrace King? Before the Spinks fight Tyson spoke of a void in his life: "Jimmy Jacobs [his comanager, who died last March of leukemia] used to come to me and say, 'Do you have any problems, and what do you want to do about them?' He made me feel like I was making the decisions. Now nobody does that." Of his choice of King as the one to fill the void, Tyson said in an interview with Larry Merchant of HBO after the Chávez-Ramírez fight, "Don King has helped me through a great deal of pressure. When I was going through the stress [his marital difficulties] Bill Cayton didn't care to put two cents in. No one else cared to help. So no one can tell me anything bad about Don King.... I'm saying Don King's been nothing but good to me."