Holyfield bout on Showtime, not PPV cast

Channel pays $5 mil for champ versus Bean fight

NEW YORK — Showtime has landed the exclusive rights — estimated at $5 million — to the next Evander Holyfield fight, which Don King Prods. has announced for Sept. 19 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Because of Holyfield’s celebrity status as the top heavyweight, who holds the World Boxing Assn. and the Intl. Boxing Federation championships, the industry expressed surprise that the match won’t end up on pay per view.

Mark Greenberg, executive VP of corporate marketing and communications for Showtime Networks, explained:

– Since the date of the fight is less than six weeks away, there wouldn’t be enough time to mount the full marketing and promotional blitz to build the kind of momentum that would cause cable subscribers to pony up $39.95 for the event.

– Holyfield’s challenger, Vaughn Bean, is not as well known as most of Holyfield’s previous opponents. A knockout by Holyfield of a less-than-imposing contender in the first or second round of a PPV cablecast would generate much weeping and gnashing of teeth among people who paid the tariff.

The Holyfield-Bean contest will be of particular importance to Showtime, Greenberg says, because it dovetails perfectly with a free-preview weekend the network had already planned for Sept. 18-20. The fight will become the highlight of the preview.

Showtime says it will announce later this month the undercard bouts that will lead into the Holyfield-Bean main event.

Holyfield hasn’t fought in 10 months. Neil Pilson, who owns his own sports consultancy and is a former president of CBS Sports, says that “Holyfield wants to stay in shape, so he’s taking on Bean just to keep sharp.”

Don King Prods. and the Georgia Dome are the promoters. Jay Larkin, senior VP of Showtime Networks, is executive producer. The ringside announcers are Steve Albert, Ferdie Pacheco and Bobby Czyz. Jim Gray will be the roving reporter.

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