James (Buster) Douglas will defend his heavyweight championship against Evander Holyfield this fall, forcing Mike Tyson to wait a year for a rematch with the man who took his title, Douglas' manager said Sunday.
Holyfield, the top-ranked challenger, and Douglas will fight in September under an agreement manager John Johnson said he reached on Saturday with Holyfield's promoter, Dan Duva.
"Right now, we're planning for Holyfield in September," Johnson said. "It looks like (a rematch with) Tyson will be next February."
Duva, however, said he and Johnson had "a long way to go before a deal is struck," and that he prefers to have the fight earlier.
"I think a lot more money would be available for a fight in June than in September. Right now, he (Douglas) is hot and my theory is to strike while he's hot," Duva said.
In Atlanta, Holyfield and his manager, Ken Sanders, said no deal had been completed, although Holyfield confirmed that there had been an agreement under which he would be Douglas' first challenger.
"The situation is that right now, they want the fight to be in September. We want the fight to be earlier," Holyfield told the Associated Press. "We are agreeing that we are going to fight him, but right now, we are trying to work out a date and a place."
Billionaire Donald Trump had guaranteed Holyfield $12 million to challenge Tyson for the world title in June, but Douglas scuttled those plans with his 10th-round knockout victory over Tyson in Tokyo on Feb. 10.
Johnson left for Las Vegas Sunday on a plane owned by Mirage Hotel owner Steve Winn. He said he would meet later in the week in New York with Trump about the Holyfield fight.
Johnson also said Douglas would earn "many times the $1.3 million" he was paid for fighting Tyson for the fight with Holyfield.
"I don't think money is going to be an issue," Holyfield said. "It's just to go on and get the fight over with and become the new champion."
Sanders, an Atlanta auto dealer, said Douglas' handlers don't have the authority to make the arrangements without consideration of the rules of sanctioning bodies, which mandate a title fight within six months.
"They have got a lot of power being the heavyweight champion, but they don't have that kind of power," Sanders told WXIA-TV. "If you're going to box, you got to box by the rules or you ain't going to get no belt. It's that simple."
Duva said in an interview on NBC-TV Sunday that he would have no problem coming to terms with Johnson, but "other promoters are trying to weasel in on the deal," and he was afraid the matter could end up in court.
"There are so many other things we have problems with: (fight promoter) Don King's contract (with Douglas), other promoters. We have a myriad of things that have to be resolved."
Johnson said King had not acted in Douglas' best interests, and cited a lack of respect by King and Tyson as a factor in the decision to fight Holyfield first and keep King out of it.
"Don King had tried and, for a very short time, successfully kept James Douglas from being the heavyweight champion of the world," Johnson said.
"We're going to go with James Douglas' wishes not to have anything to do with Don King, and I agree with that, but we're going to be more than fair with Don King."
King, however, said he would not be kept out of Douglas' fights.
"I think Buster Douglas has to do some soul-searching, because it was through me he got the opportunity to fight," he said. "I had him for five years when he was nondescript and gave him two heavyweight title shots. So I think he will re-evaluate this."
King said he would take part, if allowed, in a Douglas-Holyfield fight before a bout with Tyson.
"Whereas I would think Buster Douglas himself would want to get the biggest payday, no one can say that Buster Douglas and Tyson would mean more money than Evander Holyfield and Douglas . . . but that's his call.
"But I will be involved because I am his promoter, and I'll be involved because I have a contractual commitment with him, but more than that, I have five years on service with him."
No promoter for the Douglas-Holyfield fight has been chosen, Johnson said.
Douglas said he was not forgetting who gave him his start, but said he had not gotten his due from King.
"Don . . . hasn't acknowledged me once since winning the heavyweight championship. It's like all he's concerned with is how unfairly Mike Tyson is being treated," Douglas said. "I'm the one that hasn't been treated fairly. I wasn't even awarded the title after winning it. It was a dampened championship."
Douglas (30-4-1) was recognized as champion last week by all three of boxing's governing organizations. Two of them, the World Boxing Association and the World Boxing Council, had delayed proclaiming him champion because of a brief dispute over a long count when Tyson floored Douglas in the eighth round.