Promoter Don King shot down a rumor making the rounds Friday that he had a deal to promote former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in a third fight with Evander Holyfield, but he was evasive about whether he was in talks with Tyson about a comeback against somebody else.
An Internet report citing "a source close to Tyson" said King had a tentative deal for Tyson to return later this year to face Holyfield, but if that didn't happen there was "a plan B."
"My man, that is just wishful thinking," King told ESPN.com on Friday when asked about a third Holyfield-Tyson fight. "It is not true. It is not true about no Tyson-Holyfield fight. That's wishful thinking. Maybe it's something I would do for old time's sake if they were interested in the fight, but I ain't doing that at this time. I have not even spoken to Evander Holyfield."
However, when asked about whether he was working with Tyson on a comeback fight against another opponent, King did not deny it.
"I ain't ready to comment on that," King said. "Read between the lines. It really is something isn't it, all the interest there is in Mike Tyson?"
Tyson (50-6, 44 KOs), 43, has not fought since he announced his retirement after journeyman Kevin McBride made him quit in 2005. It was the third time in four bouts that Tyson was stopped. Another journeyman, Danny Williams, knocked him out in 2004 and he was hammered by then-champion Lennox Lewis in a 2002 title fight.
Holyfield and Tyson met twice in memorable fights, both of which King promoted. Holyfield scored a massive upset when he knocked out Tyson in the 11th round in 1996 to regain a piece of the heavyweight championship. In the rematch in June 1997, Tyson was famously disqualified in the third round for biting Holyfield's ear in a fight that sold nearly 2 million units on pay-per-view, the all-time record at the time.
While Tyson has been in retirement, Holyfield (42-10-2, 27 KOs) has continued to fight despite diminished skills. The 47-year-old former four-time titleholder has had well-documented financial problems and earlier this week he was granted a license for one fight by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That cleared the way for a tentative April 17 fight in Las Vegas against Frans Botha.
Tyson and King had an acrimonious split years ago, the result of Tyson filing a $100 million lawsuit against King, whom he accused of skimming millions from his purses. They eventually settled the suit in 2004 with King paying Tyson $14 million, which went toward his bankruptcy reorganization.
However, in early November, Tyson and King made a public appearance together at a card King was promoting on Showtime in Las Vegas and they announced they had mended fences.
"Oh, what a glorious day," King said at the time. "My prodigal son has returned. ... I never said anything bad about Mike for all these years because I knew we would get back together someday. Reunited, and it feels so good."
King was also asked in November about the possibility of a Tyson comeback.
"I think Mike's one of the greatest fighters that ever lived," King said. "I think he can still be a fighter if he wants to be a fighter. Listen, whatever it is between me and Mike, it ain't about the bankroll. We gonna do what has to be done. He needs a lot of vitamins. He needs a lot of TLC, tender loving care, dedication and discipline. So whatever we have to do, we'll do. If you can't hear me, I'll say it a little louder."
In his recent documentary, "Tyson," the youngest heavyweight champion in history attacked King, as he had done for years. However, when they were together in November, Tyson was more forgiving.
"All things pass, and I just felt it was time to mend fences with Don," Tyson said.
Tyson was asked about a possible comeback during a joint interview with Showtime's Jim Gray during the telecast and said, "If this guy is going to pay for my training -- my training team costs a lot of money. I need a lot of minerals and vitamins. Anything is possible. I don't see it happening, but anything is possible. This guy is capable of making a lot of things happen. I don't see it happening, but you never know with this guy."
Tyson then added, "I would need to work really hard and take a lot of vitamins, because I'm fat."
But that was four months ago. When asked Friday if Tyson had been training to get into shape since then, King laughed loudly.
"Wouldn't that be something," he said.
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.