NEW YORK -- Champions Mike Tyson and James 'Bonecrusher' Smith, considered the hardest-punching heavyweights, will fight March 7 in Las Vegas, Nev., in the next-to-last step of the division's title unification series.
Tyson won the World Boxing Council title Nov. 22 with a second-round knockout over Trevor Berbick. Smith won the World Boxing Association championship Dec. 12 with a first-round upset knockout of Tim Witherspoon.
Tyson is 28-0 with 26 knockouts, and Smith is 19-5 with 14 knockouts. Tyson, at 20 the youngest heavyweight champion in history and the glamour fighter of the division, is a 7-1 favorite.
'He's the hottest man in boxing,' Smith, 33, said of Tyson at a news conference Monday to announce the bout. 'This is a great opportunity for me to be the king of the hill, to be the hot man. We can prove who is the puncher.'
'Everyone says they're going to come out and take it to me, until the bout starts,' Tyson said. 'I'm one who doesn't intimidate or shake up easy. I'm more confident than ever, I'm the champion. I beat somebody (Berbick) who everybody thought was the best round.'
Tyson of Catskill, N.Y., and Smith of Fayetteville, N.C., are scheduled to fight in the first bout at the Las Vegas Hilton's 14,600-seat outdoor stadim. Construction of the stadium will begin in two weeks.
The scheduled length of the bout will be determined by representatives of the WBC and WBA. WBC title bouts are 12 rounds and the WBA's 15 rounds.
The winner is scheduled to fight International Boxing Federation champion Michael Spinks in the final of the unification series televised by HBO. However, Spinks is seeking to break his contract with HBO in order to defend his title against Gerry Cooney. HBO and promoter Don King have obtained an injunction against the Spinks-Cooney bout but an appeal is pending.
'We're two prize fights and one legal fight away from unifying the heavyweight title,' HBO executive Seth Abraham said. 'After this fight, we'll have one less champion than when we started.'
Bill Cayton, one of Tyson's co-managers, said Tyson will take another fight in May if he defeats Smith and the unfication bout is postponed.
Tyson, who won the title 20 months after he turned pro, said the long layoff between fights has bored him.
'It's nice to start working again,' he said. 'I haven't fought in a long time. I feel like an old man almost.'
Tyson will earn about $1.5 million and Smith $1 million.
Smith is due for a mandatory defense against the highest ranked available WBA challenger. But his co-managers, Alan Kornberg and Carl King, have appealed to the WBA to postpone the mandatory defense until the unification series is completed. Tyson is not ranked by the WBA because he is a WBC champion.