The four-fight boxing extravaganza scheduled for Madison Square Garden Feb. 23 has been called off because of the failure of all parties to agree to reduced purses, United Press International reported yesterday.
Two of the canceled bouts may be staged at a later date.
Official announcement of the cancellation will be made at the Garden at 11 a.m. (EST) Friday, UPI said.
The two fights that the Garden will try to salvage are the heavyweight bout between Gerry Cooney and Ken Norton and the World Boxing Council super-bantamweight title fight between champion Wilfredo Gomez and Mike Ayala.
The bouts canceled are the light-heavyweight title fight between Matthew Saad Muhammad (WBC) and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (WBA) and the WBA welterweight title fight between champion Thomas Hearns and Wilfred Benitez.
Originally, each boxer, with the exception of the two super bantamweights, was to receive at least $1 million.
The program was thrown into disarray when embezzlement charges were leveled against Harold Smith, board chairman of Muhammad Ali Professional Sports Inc. (MAPS), co-promoter of the card.
When MAPS became entangled with problems this week, Tiffany Promotions attempted to take full control of the promotion. Lesser purses were offered in an attempt to save the card.
Managers for almost all the fighters, however, refused to consider reduced purses. Today, Sam Glass, president of Tiffany, met with John F. X. Condon, head of the Garden boxing department, and chief matchmaker Gil Clancy and decided to call off the show.
Ticket prices were listed as $1,000 for ringside and the Garden had previously said refunds would be made if the card fell through.
Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who lent his name to MAPS, also said earlier in the week he would attempt to save the card and help clear Smith's name.
But he qualified his support Wednesday, saying the purses Smith offered the fighters were "outrageous," adding Smith had "spoiled" the fighters by offering such sums. He said the fighters apparently were not willing to accept smaller purses and the fight card was in jeopardy.
Smith, the subject of an FBI manhunt, is being sued by the Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles for $21.3 million. Smith has not appeared in public for a week but he has called newspapers and broadcasters in New York and Los Angeles to level accusations that bank officials masterminded an embezzlement, not of $21 million but up to $300 million, and then tried to kill him and abduct his young son.
Wells Fargo officials have called the charges "preposterous."
Madison Square Garden released a statement earlier today saying MAPS and Tiffany had failed to make required rent payments and that if the two parties did not cover their payments by Feb. 12, the entire program would be scratched.
Following that statement, Capital Centre in Landover, Md., said it was still selling tickets for the MAPS/Tiffany show but would announce arrangements to return ticket money if the promotion was canceled.