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Reaction to Tyson verdict is mixed

Life after Tyson.

That's what the world of boxing faces in the wake of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson's conviction Monday night on a charge of rape and two charges of deviate sexual conduct.

"It means absolutely nothing to boxing," said Bob Arum, an arch-rival to promoter Don King, who is Tyson's promoter. "In some way, it helps boxing because it eliminates someone who is perceived to be a bad apple in the mix."

That's not how Seth Abraham sees it.

Abraham is president of Time-Warner Sports, and Time-Warner is the parent company of HBO, which presents cable television boxing shows, and of TVKO, which presents pay-per-view boxing telecasts.

TVKO was set to telecast Evander Holyfield's defense against Tyson on Nov. 8, which was canceled when Tyson sustained a rib injury while training in October. That fight was expected to gross more than $100-million.

"The most profound effect, obviously, is on the heavyweight championship, and that connects with the other divisions," Abraham said. "As the heavyweight division goes, so goes boxing."

When the heavyweight division is in decline, smaller fighters come to the fore.

"Other divisions got attention when Muhammad Ali was out (from 1967 to 1970 because of his conviction for refusing induction into military service)," Abraham said.

Smaller fighters starred between the title loss of Jack Johnson in 1915 and the championship win of Jack Dempsey in 1919, from the retirement of Dempsey in 1928 until the rise of Joe Louis in 1936, and from the retirement of Louis in 1949 until the rise of Rocky Marciano in 1951.

"There's enough big fights," Arum said. "George Foreman-Holyfield (in a rematch) is big enough. There will be more big combinations in the years ahead."

There, however, will be no single attraction like Tyson, who is a major draw no matter the caliber of the opponent.

"He is a legitimate cash register," Abraham said.

Without Tyson, there is not a real leader in the heavyweight division, which badly lacks depth.

"It is open season without Tyson," said Larry Holmes, 42, a former champion who admittedly wants no more to do with Tyson, who knocked him out in 1988.

Holmes, however, would like a title shot against anybody else. And Holmes and Foreman, 43, are attractive, especially against one another, to the nostalgia crowd.

Then there are prospects such as Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis, whose popularity as yet does not reach beyond boxing fans.