Reporters attending Thursday’s news conference for the Julio Cesar Chavez-Jose Luis Ramirez fight at the Las Vegas Hilton Saturday weren’t too surprised when promoter Don King walked into the room with heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
After all, King has had Tyson in tow almost constantly for several weeks, including a trip to Brazil where, presumably, a possible Tyson bout against Brazilian Adilson Rodrigues was discussed.
But when Tyson went to the microphone at the head table and began running the news conference, it was clear something was up. Then the champion let it out:
“This is my first boxing promotion . . . Don King and I made a deal,” Tyson said of the lightweight title bout.
Afterward, Tyson and King dodged specifics about their promotional arrangement. King and Tyson have been at odds with Tyson’s manager, Bill Cayton, since last spring.
“We’re partners, there’s nothing to divulge, gentlemen,” King said. “Mike is working with me, not for me. Yes, he gets a share. He gets a share of everything.”
King wouldn’t even say whether his promotional arrangement with Tyson was contractual or by handshake. The distinction is important, because Cayton had already threatened to sue King over a promotional contract King said he’d signed in New York with Tyson.
Does this mean Tyson will be a co-promoter at his own fights?
“Mike is always a promoter, we share everything,” King said. “We love each other.”
Is it legal for a boxer to also be a promoter?
Chuck Minker, executive director of the Nevada Boxing Commission, indicated the Tyson-King relationship was not illegal in Nevada.
“Don King is the promoter of record for this show, and really that’s all that matters,” Minker said. “Tyson doesn’t have a promoter’s license, but he doesn’t need one as I understand his relationship with King.”
Tyson said he would answer only questions dealing directly with the Chavez-Ramirez fight.
When he was concluding the news conference, Tyson, from the lectern, looked into a couple of TV cameras and said: “All you fans of mine, watching now from all over the world from satellites . . . please come to this fight and support me.”
King asked reporters not to question Tyson about the nature of the King-Tyson promotional relationship.
“Mike has gone through a lot of trauma lately, and it’s not over yet, so neither one of us is going to comment much on his promotional work for this fight. It will be defined more later on. “
King referred to the pending divorce between the heavyweight champion and his wife, Robin Givens, and the animosity between Tyson and Cayton, who accuses King of trying to drive a wedge between him and Tyson.
Cayton’s threat to file suit against King recently came, Cayton said, after the promoter called to inform him he’d signed a 4-year promotional contract with Tyson.
“Don King called me, with his lawyer also on the line, and told me he’d signed Mike Tyson not only to a 4-year, exclusive promotional contract, but had also acquired power of attorney from Mike,” Cayton said Thursday in a phone interview from New York.
Cayton arrives in Las Vegas today with his lawyer and will meet with King.
“I told Don I would not approve such a contract, that it was totally illegal,” Cayton said, “and I told Don that he knew perfectly well that he can’t sign a fighter to a promotional contract when that fighter has a manager’s contract.
“I know that a contract exists between Don and Mike and I know that it’s illegal, because section 208.21 of the New York state’s boxing rules prohibits a licensed fighter from becoming a promoter.”
Cayton’s contract with Tyson runs through 1992. In July, the pact was modified, with Cayton’s share of Tyson’s earnings being substantially reduced.
Tyson, clad in a white T-shirt and blue jogging pants, ran the news conference in an upbeat, effervescent style--in stark contrast to his surly actions when meeting with reporters for his own fights.
At his own news conferences, Tyson all but sneers at reporters’ questions, appears painfully bored, grunts one-syllable answers, or doesn’t answer at all. At the last news conference in Atlantic City before the Tyson-Michael Spinks fight, Tyson put his head on the head table and fell asleep.
But Thursday, you’d have thought he was after Johnny Carson’s job.
--"My problem is not money. My problem is that I have money.”
--"Julio Cesar Chavez’s record is 61-0. Some day, he’s going to be a great fighter.”
He even blended in a little history, and boosted it a little with some Don King-like hyperbole:
“This is the greatest meeting of little men in boxing since Joe Gans and Battling Nelson, at the turn of the century.” (It was 1906, at Goldfield, Nev.)
He stumbled only once, when introducing World Boxing Council bantamweight champion Miguel Lora, a Colombian, as being from “Columbus.” But he corrected himself a moment later, just as Colombians at a nearby table were about to.
For 30 minutes before the news conference and about 15 minutes afterward, Tyson patiently posed for photographs with members of the Chavez and Ramirez camps.
Of Tyson’s immediate future, King indicated the oft-postponed Tyson-Frank Bruno bout, originally scheduled for Oct. 6 in London, will probably be held in Las Vegas in January.
“Nothing is signed yet, and there is no site, but it’ll likely be Las Vegas,” King said.
John Giovenco, president of Hilton Nevada Corp., which operates the Las Vegas Hilton, indicated the hotel would bid for Tyson-Bruno.
“We would love to have Tyson-Bruno right here,” Giovenco said.
The Hilton has handled numerous King boxing shows, and Giovenco said he wasn’t surprised the promoter had brought Tyson into his operation.
Meanwhile, Chavez and Ramirez, who both asked Tyson to pose for photographers with them before the news conference, spoke of friendship, and combat.
Both grew up in Culiacan, Mexico, before traveling divergent paths in their pro careers. Both trained in the same Culiacan gym as youngsters. And over the years, a friendship endured.
“I have had to put our friendship aside in (mentally) preparing for his fight,” Chavez said.
“Now, I am mentally prepared to meet my old friend. When the fight is over, I know we will continue to be friends.”