Tyson brings shock factor

Jun 4, 2002 1:00 PM

With so many glorious sports events happening this weekend, it’s a damn shame we can’t escape the Lewis-Tyson fight.

Let’s rationalize the interest to morbid curiosity. Will Iron Mike turn into a raving maniac, or will he behave himself and conceivably recapture the heavyweight championship? Most figure Lewis will overpower Tyson, just as he did several years ago (above photo) in Las Vegas against Evander Holyfield.

Whatever the scenario, the handle at Las Vegas books stands to be enormous.

"The actual fight itself is not a great fight, but public is hungry for it," Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas race and sports director John Avello said. "The Holyfield (vs Rahman) fight probably wetted the appetite. The attraction is what Tyson may do."

Las Vegas may have lost the fight to Memphis, provided it does come off this Saturday, but this town never loses. The Belmont Stakes and a Triple Crown possibility earlier that day is a wonderful lead-in to the fight. Not to mention having the World Cup, Stanley Cup and NBA Finals all happening at the same time.

"This is going to be a huge weekend for us," Suncoast race and sports director Eddie Ricca said. "The Belmont stirs up a lot of interest. We have the race set for the showroom, which seats 400. We will have hot dogs, pop corn and a free T-shirt with any $20 wager on the race."

Both Ricca and Avello agreed that the Belmont will draw a big crowd that will stay on to bet heavy on the fight later that evening.

"People like to put up less to get more," Avello said. "There is no question that if you like Tyson, the time to bet is now. The Lewis backers will come in late. Right now we have Lewis at minus $2.00, but I can definitely see the price going down to $1.60 by fight time. We’re showing the fight live for $60."

"You have known names," Ricca said. "Plus, the unexpected is there. I expect a good handle. We are not going to show the fight, but people are going to be following our ticker closely."

World Cup interest has been solid, despite the early-morning times of the games.

"We have been keeping the sports book open past 12:30 a.m. taking bets on the World Cup," Avello said. "Of course, we have been showing all the games on TV in the book. We took some pretty good sized bets and expect interest to grow as the tourney moves on."

The Suncoast did particularly strong business on Game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference final between the Lakers and Kings.

"Sacramento had a lot of backing up here," said Ricca, who moved the line from 1½ to 2½ points in favor of the Kings.

Avello noted that New Jersey would get solid support in the NBA Final as a live underdog.

"No question the Nets have a shot at the Lakers," he said. "They are an unselfish team with a good guy (Jason Kidd) running the show. The supporting cast is there. Anything can happen in the finals."