Trump Pays $11 Million for Tyson vs. Spinks Bout

Times Staff Writer

New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has called a news conference at his Trump Tower in Manhattan for today to announce that the fight between unbeaten heavyweights Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks will be held in Atlantic City, N.J., on Monday, June 27.

The fight, for which Trump says he paid a record site fee of $11 million, will be held at the Atlantic City Convention Hall, which is attached to his Trump Plaza Hotel, and will be televised on a pay-per-view basis.

Trump outbid two Las Vegas hotels, Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton. The entire deal, however, is contingent upon Tyson defeating Tony Tubbs in Tokyo on March 21.

The site fee is the price paid by a hotel or other facility to the promoter, in this case Don King and Tyson's managers, for the fight.

Tyson's co-managers, Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, reached acrimonious agreement on a June bout with Spinks' manager, Butch Lewis, shortly after the Jan. 22 Tyson-Larry Holmes bout in Atlantic City. In negotiations fraught with shouting, threats--and even a walkout by Lewis during one session (Cayton was reported to have said at that point: "Butch, if you walk out that door, don't come back." Lewis did, and came back.) Finally, agreement was reached on a guaranteed minimum $17 million for Tyson, a flat $12.5 million for Spinks.

The bidding for the site was a longer exercise, and one which may change the face of big-money boxing shows in the United States. Until now, Las Vegas has had a lock on major bouts.

"Remember, Las Vegas has never lost a boxing show that it really wanted," said Las Vegas boxing publicist Jim Hunter when bidding for Tyson-Spinks began.

One wonders if Trump's $11-million check establishes the half-century-old, stone-and-brick Atlantic City Convention Hall as the sport's principal address, instead of the Caesars Palace and Las Vegas Hilton parking lots.

Jack Burkam, a Las Vegas Hilton vice president who was involved in negotiations for Tyson-Spinks, said this setback shouldn't be seen as a trend.

"We'll get our share (in the future)," he said.

"There's no question that (Trump has) driven up the price of major events, though. You have to now look more closely at these events and ask yourself how magic is the fight itself?"

Bob Halloran, vice president for sports for Caesars World, parent company of Caesars Palace, called the Tyson-Spinks negotiations "complex."

"It's the most difficult negotiation we've ever been involved in," he said Tuesday.

At the $11-million level, the site fee is easily a record. The former high site fee mark was the $7 million that Caesars Palace paid Bob Arum for last year's Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard bout.

An $11-million site fee could also mean record ticket prices. Four-digit ringside seat tickets? Arum charged $700 for ringside seats at Hagler-Leonard. In this case, when one divides the Convention Hall's 18,000 seats into $11 million, it comes out to $611 per seat.

Obviously, Trump hopes to make up the difference in his casino, and in food and drinks.

Tyson-Spinks is an attractive matchup. Tyson is a 21-year-old, undisputed champion, who some are already ranking with the all-time heavyweight champions. Spinks, 31, is a puzzling case, a boxer without notable punching power, who looks awkward more often than not, is slow afoot, and seems to land his best punches when off-balance.

Yet Spinks, 1976 Olympic Games middleweight gold medalist and two-time winner over Larry Holmes, as Tyson, has never lost a pro fight.

In a burst of exuberance Wednesday, at landing what will certainly be the major boxing event of 1988, Trump went a bit too far when he called Tyson-Spinks "the biggest fight since Ali-Frazier."

It's not quite that.

But then, Trump's public relations people haven't even started yet.

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