Free Mike Tyson will take on a whole new meaning Nov. 4 when Fox Television carries the Mike Tyson-Buster Mathis Jr. fight.
The bout had been slated for a pay-per-view airing on Viacom’s Showtime Event Television until a shouting match began between SET and HBO’s TVKO, which is offering the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe battle via pay-per-view on the same date.
Neither side would back down and reschedule. While Tyson’s last fight with Peter McNeeley is said to have grossed more than $80 million in PPV, there was concern that another quick fight with a no-name opponent would be a turn-off to potential buyers.
Enter Fox with at least $10 million and a yearning for any sports event. Fox will carry the fight live, produced by Showtime’s SET, along with undercard bouts, pre-and post-fight shows for three hours of programming. Fox also will carry the fight on sister company Sky TV in the U.K.
Now it is likely that HBO will reschedule the Holyfield-Bowe fight, probably to Nov. 3.
Fox insiders concede that the bout is not likely to be profitable. However, it comes at the start of the November sweeps and should give the weblet huge publicity and strong promotional opportunities.
The deal brings big-time boxing back to free TV for the first time in 10 years. Fox also is expected to look at covering more fights, although none likely will have the status of a Tyson bout.