The difficulty is that King, the promoter, has the fighter; Cayton, the manager, has the binding contract. Neither can operate without the other. Tyson won't fight unless King is involved. Pay-per-view companies, HBO and the foreign television networks won't deal with Tyson without Cayton's signature on all agreements.
"Realistically, I can't deliver Tyson," says Cayton. "But I try to protect the fighter. That is my duty [as a manager], even if the fighter doesn't want it. King can't do a thing without my approval and my signature. Legally he has nothing. But he has the fighter's heart, mind and soul."
Since last October, HBO has been negotiating to sign Tyson to a lifetime contract. Tyson suggested the deal, and HBO senior vice-president Seth Abraham has proposed a series of three Tyson fights a year on HBO, with Tyson free to do a pay-per-view bout—Holyfield would be the first—every 18 months. HBO would produce the pay-per-view fights and own the rights to the delayed broadcasts of them. Tyson's purse for each bout would depend upon the caliber of the opponent. There would be an "A" pool of the top three contenders, a "B" pool for Nos. 4, 5 and 6 in the rankings, and a "C" pool for 7, 8,9 and 10.
Trouble is, most of Tyson's prospective opponents belong in an "F" pool, no matter where they are ranked. For example, King has been shamelessly trying to peddle Jose Ribalta as a worthy foe. In a preliminary to the Tyson-Williams fight, Ribalta was handed a 10-round decision over Jeff Sims, who hadn't fought in 40 months. After two rounds Sims was huffing like an overweight businessman on an exercise bike. Still, he knocked Ribalta down in the sixth and appeared to have won at least six of the 10 listless rounds. Following the Ribalta bout, Abraham was grinning. "I think we no longer have to discuss him," he said.
After disposing of Williams, Tyson made no secret of his feelings about his future. Charging across the ring, he leaned over the ropes and shook his right fist in Holyfield's direction. Tyson later offered to fight Holyfield for nothing in the Convention Center's basement. "The guy who comes back up with the key will be the champion," he said.
So, when will the two square off for pay? Probably not until after Tyson stops off in Taiwan to pick up that $18 million. When people are offering that kind of money to fight a 40-year-old fat man, serious boxing can wait.