Canceled fight KO’s cablers

Close to $1 mil spent to promote event

NEW YORK — It looked like the one pay-per-view event this year that could generate some real buy rates at $39.95 a subscriber: the heavyweight-championship bout between Evander Holyfield and Henry Akinwande slated for Saturday. But the New York State Athletic Commission postponed the bout indefinitely the day before it was scheduled, convening a news conference Friday at Madison Square Garden, the site of the event, to report that Akinwande tested positive for the infectious disease hepatitis-B.

Holyfield’s attorney/adviser Jim Thomas said that, while waiting to see if Akinwande’s treatment would eventually make it possible for him to step back into the ring, Holyfield would seek another challenger between now and the end of the year. Tony Russo, first executive director of the New York State Athletic Commission, said at the news conference, with the proper treatment, hepatitis-B is curable.

“We’re disappointed because this is shaping up as a less-than-stellar year for pay-per-view events,” says Suzanne Simon, director of programming for Rifkin & Associates, the 22nd largest cable operator in the United States.

A number of cable operators had helped Showtime Event TV, the distributor of the fight, to promote Holyfield v. Akinwande, spending close to $1 million in the joint-marketing effort. One insider says Showtime was projecting a potential buy rate of 500,000 households, a respectable number considering that Holyfield’s earlier match with Michael Moorer had ended up with 600,000 buys.