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Enterprising wiseguys may back Captain Kirk

May 20, 2003 11:29 PM

The odds are minus $8.00 that Lennox Lewis retains his heavyweight championship June 21 against Kirk Johnson.

If you put it that way, of course, I’d say the odds are a lot less. Maybe Lewis deserves to be 8-1 over Captain Kirk, but I’m not sure he’s going to cross that final frontier. And this is more than just Johnson being worth a flyer at plus $5.50 (last time I looked).

What odds do I get for Lewis coming up with a bad back between now and then?

Lennox Lewis, I have been maintaining since Memphis last year, is retired. He’s on a long victory lap. He doesn’t want to fight again, unless it’s a rematch with the ghost of Mike Tyson. That’s how I read his salacious lawsuit against Tyson and Don King.

Lewis and his New York lawyer Judd Burstein want $385 million from Tyson and King, whom they accuse of conspiring not to live up to a contractual rematch clause from last year’s barbecue in Memphis. The "loser" is the one who demands rematches, not the "winner," and I vaguely recall Lewis’s hand being raised in Memphis.

How could anyone argue before a judge that Tyson must get beaten up again because he signed a contract? The rematch clause was in there for Lewis, in case he lost. That Tyson exercised his option on the rematch a month after the fight was a terrible mistake made by his adviser, Shelly Finkel. Tyson did not need any legal leverage. All he has to do is wiggle his pinky and any man would be glad to fight him, and probably some women would rush to him for the same reason.

It’s a wonderful lawsuit, if you like reading stuff like King has threatened the life of Tyson adviser Jeff Wald for suggesting to Mike that he need not take this ill-advised rematch until ready, which may be never. Or that King paid an $86,000 hotel bill to billet Tyson in New York while the former heavyweight champion was supposed to be in Los Angeles to announce his June 21 fight with faded Oleg Maskaev on a Lewis-Johnson pay-per-view card.

Burstein has tacitly admitted that without Tyson on the card, Lewis can’t sell (Dr. Vitali Klitschko was brought in to sub for Tyson, but the appeal is so minimal the fight was scratched from PPV and put on regular HBO). King is accused in the lawsuit of enticing Tyson to stay in the New York hotel with a woman. However, those of us who have seen the woman ”” a plump lady who claims to be Tyson’s "sister" ”” suspect that Mike must really be punchy to pass up a $7.5 million payday when he is desperate for cash.

The trickerations are mind-boggling, but this is the bottom line. Tyson is very much like Lewis. He doesn’t want to fight again, either. I doubt if King really cares whether Tyson does or not. He made Tyson an offer of maybe $20 million, maybe $25 million, to sign up for another tour, but please, please drop that $100 million lawsuit against me, Michael my brother.

No one else has offered Tyson a better deal, though Wald is probably advising Tyson to go through with his suit against King. Maybe Mike will get more than $20 million; maybe he won’t. In any case, Mike Tyson has always been about instant gratification. It’s more salient to suggest that Lewis also wants something for nothing.

He doesn’t want to fight Johnson. It’s a dangerous match and forget Johnson’s poor performance against John Ruiz. He was quickly taken out of his game plan by Referee Joe Cortez, who called anything below the chin a low blow. Had Jay Nady been the ref, as he was when Ruiz tried to fight Roy Jones Jr., Johnson would have beaten Ruiz. Yes, Captain Kirk got hurt by a Ruiz right hand in the ninth round, but he recovered (he would not recover from a Lewis right hand, of course).

But Johnson has very quick hands, which means he could possibly hit Lewis before Lewis hits him. And though Johnson is not a bona fide slugger, he hits hard enough to dent Lewis’s suspect chin. Believe me, for one-third the purse he could get from another go at Tyson, Lewis doesn’t need or want Johnson.

Lewis doesn’t want to fight Dr. Vitali, either, the way he has seemingly promised (that ought to keep the German promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl satisfied for the moment). He doesn’t want to fight anyone that he couldn’t make $25 million with little risk and there’s only one Mike Tyson on this planet. And Tyson is not anxious to fight him.

I believe, in my heart of hearts, that Burstein talked Lennox into this easy-money-for-nothing lawsuit. Don King may be a pain in the butt, but I think Lewis will eventually blame a pain elsewhere. Trouble is, he probably can’t sue his back, though, Judd Burstein would probably like to try.