John Johnson, manager of new heavyweight boxing champion James (Buster) Douglas, said Sunday night that Douglas' first title defense will be against Evander Holyfield in September. Holyfield's representatives would rather it be in June.
Speaking aboard a private jet en route from Columbus, Ohio, to Las Vegas, Johnson said: "I can't tell you if the fight will be in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, we're just now starting to talk to people about that. All I can tell you now is, it's Holyfield, in September."
Douglas, who dethroned Mike Tyson in Tokyo in one of boxing's greatest upsets, was on the flight to Las Vegas with Johnson, along with Douglas' trainer, J.D. McCauley.
Dan Duva, Holyfield's promoter, said Sunday he had not agreed to a September fight with Douglas, that he and the unbeaten Holyfield wanted a June fight instead. Johnson, however, said Duva contradicted himself.
"Dan Duva and I talked about this last (Saturday) night and he agreed to a September fight, and now I hear he's changed his mind," Johnson said.
Duva, however, said in an interview on NBC-TV Sunday that 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."
Duva said 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. Johnson said he expects a legal challenge by Tyson's promoter, Don King, if he signs Douglas to a Holyfield fight.
If it happens, it could be the first heavyweight title fight in years in which King didn't have a promotional interest. Actually, King does have a promotional interest in the new champion, but Johnson said he intended to ignore it.
"Let him sue us," Johnson said. "King breached his contract with us. It was in our contract for the Tyson fight that Don King he was to look out after James Douglas' best interests. He didn't do that. James knocked his man out and all King did after the fight was run around and try to get James' victory overturned.
"Don King has been buffaloing people all these years, threatening them with lawyers . . . it won't work for him this time. Don King helped us and we'll reward him for that, but as a promoter he's out of our lives. I think Dan Duva is afraid of King, but we're not.
"But you know what? I don't think Mike Tyson wants any part of James again. He took a beating for 10 rounds and he knows the same thing will happen again.
"It boils down to this: The heavyweight champion is offended by Don King's behavior after the fight, and doesn't want to do business with him anymore. And he's not so sure he wants to do business with Donald Trump, either, because King is Trump's man."
Johnson said that to sign for the Tyson fight, he had to contractually agree that King, in the event that Douglas should defeat Tyson, would promote Douglas' fights "throughout his championship."
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 told the Associated Press. "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."
Steve Wynn, owner of the new Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, said he expects a spirited bidding contest for Douglas-Holyfield from Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton and also from Donald Trump's Taj Mahal Hotel in Atlantic City.
"I hope we get it," Wynn said, "I'm going to try very hard to get it. I guess I'm handicapped as the guy who'll pay the most to get it, partly because of my temperment but also because I don't have to answer to anyone.
"I'll say this--whether he fights Holyfield or Tyson again, this is the biggest biggest grossing fight in history."