Lennox Lewis never really expected the heavyweight unification fight against Evander Holyfield to come off.
"As I said, I would never believe it was on until I saw Holyfield coming out of the other corner," Lewis said. "It's the boxing business for you and I never built up my hopes on the fight happening."
The bout seemed set Monday, then fell apart in a snag over money the next day. Now Lewis is looking elsewhere, mentioning former champion Buster Douglas and Shannon Briggs as possible opponents.
Plans for an April 25 fight in Las Vegas between Lewis, the WBC champ, and Holyfield, the WBA and IBF champ, had been on the fast track for the last month. On Monday, Lewis' promoter said a $50 million deal was struck. Almost immediately, however, the deal evaporated.
At issue was the number of guaranteed pay-per-view buys. HBO Sports, which has a contract with Lewis, refused to guarantee more than 650,000. The fight would need to generate 1 million buys to produce the $20 million purse Holyfield wants for the fight.
"There's more chance of Father Christmas appearing down my chimney than that fight happening," said Lewis' manager, Frank Maloney. "Being involved in the meetings, I always knew that Holyfield's demands were high and he hasn't been willing to compromise.
"Our contract is signed so we are happy. It's up to the other side to negotiate with Holyfield, and for Don King to try to lower his financial demands."
The New York Daily News reported that one of the problems with staging the fight was King demanding a $5 million cut for himself. King denied asking for any guaranteed fee.
"I never mentioned any money for me," he told The New York Times. "I'm not going to allow them to say that the deal was broken up because Evander was greedy or that Don King wanted $5 million."
Seth Abraham, president of Time Warner Sports, agreed that a fee for King was not discussed, but that in earlier meetings King had talked about the kind of profit he was seeking.
"It started at $8 million and worked its way down to $5 million," Abraham told the Times.