The cancellation of last night's Michael Spinks-Eddie Mustafa Muhammad light heavyweight title fight will result in a loss believed to be between $150,000 to $200,000 for Home Box Office, the cable network that had planned to show the fight to an estimated 4 million households.
"It was substantial six figures, that's all I can say," said George Krieger, director of sports for HBO, adding that it was too early to say if HBO will take any legal action to recover its losses.
"We're trying to sort out what we'll do," Krieger said. "But there's only one man you can blame for this--that's Eddie (Muhammad). What he did is unconscionable. I don't blame Michael Spinks for not fighting him at all.
"The blame has to fall clearly on Eddie's shoulders. He's a professional athlete. He was the champion once, and he knows what it takes to be a champion. He was going to be paid six figures and he had a chance to win back the title from the guy who took it from him, and he messes it up. He inconvenienced the fans, Michael Spinks, the promoter, the people watching at home.
"After this, I don't think anyone in the television business will touch this guy with a 10-foot pole."
Krieger said he was concerned about Muhammad's history of weight problems when the network originally agreed to do the fight. He was also troubled on Tuesday when Muhammad weighed 185 at the prefight physical. "But you have to think he'd get down with the stakes involved," Krieger said.
"It's almost funny. I had some business appointments in the afternoon and I walked into the arena at 8:15 and there was nobody there. I thought I had the wrong night. It was a very frustrating, disappointing night."
HBO went on the air for eight to 10 minutes on the controversy surrounding the fight, including a live interview with Spinks in the deserted ring at the D.C. Armory. The network then put on a movie in place of its two-hour fight package.
"Very appropriately," said Krieger, "the name of the movie was 'Foolin' Around.' "