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Tyson Likely To Vacate WBC Crown Rather Than Fight Lewis

May 17, 1996

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Lennox Lewis will get his shot at the WBC heavyweight title, but it’s not likely to be against Mike Tyson.

Lewis got $4 million and a promise he would fight for the WBC title for agreeing Thursday to step aside and allow Tyson to fight WBA champion Bruce Seldon on July 13.

But Tyson is expected to give up his WBC crown following the Seldon bout, meaning Lewis will probably fight the WBC’s top contender for what would be a vacated title.

``I don’t know whether a Lennox Lewis fight will ever come off,″ promoter Don King said Friday.

King said there was little chance Tyson would fight either Lewis or Riddick Bowe in the near future, saying contracts the fighters have with the HBO network forbid them to fight on the Showtime network, which has Tyson under contract.

The promoter claimed he offered Lewis $13.5 million to fight Tyson on the July 13 date during negotiations this week, but that the fighter’s handlers refused the deal.

Instead, they took $4 million and the right to be the next in line to fight for the WBC crown.

``The real reason Lennox Lewis is not fighting Tyson on July 13 is because his HBO contract said he couldn’t,″ King said.

Under terms of the deal, Lewis must notify Tyson’s camp by July 6 whether he will take an interim fight, possibly with Bowe. Tyson then has until Sept. 1 to make a deal to fight Lewis or relinquish the WBC title he won from Frank Bruno in March.

King said he expected Tyson to relinquish the WBC title, assuming he beats Seldon, a 12-1 underdog. He would then fight for the IBF crown and would hold two parts of the title.

``We’re going to put the WBC title in escrow, so to speak,″ King said. ``Mike Tyson doesn’t need Riddick Bowe or Lennox Lewis.″

Tyson’s WBC title will not be at stake in the July 13 fight against Seldon, which will be held at the MGM Grand Hotel and televised pay-per-view by Showtime.

Lewis is a former WBC champion, while Tyson formerly held the belts of the WBC, WBA and IBF.

Last Monday, the New Jersey Supreme Court blocked Tyson’s bid to fight Seldon, keeping in place a temporary restraining order that told Tyson to fight Lewis or relinquish his WBC title.

Lewis claims he, not Tyson, should have challenged Frank Bruno for the WBC title in March. Tyson stopped Bruno to regain a portion of the heavyweight championship. Lewis maintained he should have been first in line after he defeated Lionel Butler in the WBC-ordered elimination bout last May.

The WBC maintained Tyson became the top contender after his release from prison in March 1995 after serving three years on a rape conviction.

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