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HOLYFIELD vs. TYSON

There's Also Chaos Outside the Ring

Aftermath: Popping sound at MGM Grand following Tyson-Holyfield fight triggers panic scene that results in 40 to 45 people getting injured.

June 30, 1997|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — It was the night the gambling stopped, a night of glamour and people-watching turned to bedlam.

In the wake of the chaos and acrimony caused by Mike Tyson's disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield in the hotel's arena, panic and police overtook the MGM Grand late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

Along the way, on one of its busiest and flashiest nights after a fight attended by John Kennedy Jr., Madonna, Tiger Woods, Jesse Jackson and many other luminaries, the largest hotel-casino in the world was transformed into a police area.

As tens of thousands of people milled in and around the hotel, a fight and an apparently false report of gunfire triggered a huge stampede from the hotel's gigantic, marble-floored lobby.

Police and security swarmed into and around the hotel, shutting down the bars, gaming tables and most of the restaurants for almost two hours, and evacuating most non-registered guests.

An MGM spokesman estimated that 40 people were injured--two area hospitals estimated 45--after a popping sound caused a huge crowd of people to rush from the giant lobby and through the main entrance's glass doors.

According to witnesses, at about 10:45 p.m., a tussle broke out in the lobby, and somebody screamed, "He's got a gun!"

Hotel sources believe the cracking sound was either a champagne cork or broken glass or falling metal poles.

"I distinctly heard a 'pop, pop, pop, pop,' " Doug Yarris, a Los Angeles dentist who was walking through the lobby when the melee began, told the Associated Press.

All except one person, who sustained a broken ankle, were treated and released from two area hospitals, the spokesman said.

"We can't prove any shots were fired," Metro police Captain Ray Flynn said. "There was a fight--people started running because of the fight.'

"There was no gunfire," MGM executive Jack Leone said.

As Metro officers, on alert because of the estimated 100,000 people in and around the area for the fight, poured into the hotel, witnesses said the officers drew guns and ordered people to the casino floor. At least one gaming table was toppled over in the melee.

Police quickly blocked off Las Vegas Boulevardfor a two-block area in front of the MGM, "for precautionary reasons," a Nevada State Highway Patrol spokesman said.

Outside the front doors, the pulsing crowd apparently knocked over metal poles used to separate driving lanes, causing more gun-fire-like noise.

By 1 a.m., most of the late-night restaurants had re-opened, and it appeared that about 60% of the gaming tables and many of the bars were back in action by then.

MGM officials would not estimate the potential losses from shutting down the gambling for almost two hours. But, the major hotels count on big fights to draw their richest gamblers, and an average big-fight night could bring in several million dollars.

The chaos in and around the hotel echoed and amplified the flare-ups inside the arena immediately after the fight was stopped.

About a minute after the disqualification, Tyson made eye contact with either Holyfield or his cornerman, Tim Hallmark, and charged toward them, nearly striking Hallmark, who was gesturing back wildly as at least a score of Metro police streamed into the ring.

"As soon as I saw Mike's reaction to the disqualification," Hallmark said, "I turned to all the people in my corner and I said, 'These guys are going to go nuts on us and we should be real smart about this.'

"That's when I turned my back to Evander, not really knowing who was behind me. Then all of the pushing and shoving started and Mike was coming at me and his security guy was coming, and they grabbed Mike and then Mike kicked and just missed kicking me."

Tyson--who is on probation after serving a three-year jail term in Indiana for rape--appeared to knock over a police officer during that charge, and Metro police said they would review the incident today.

Eventually Tyson left the ring--after another mini-charge--to loud boos, and was showered with liquid as he tried to scramble into the stands to get at few crowd members.

Police said three people were arrested in the arena and none was seriously injured.

This episode came eight months after rapper Tupac Shakur was shot--he died days later of his wounds--while driving about a mile from the MGM after attending Tyson's knockout victory over Bruce Seldon at the Grand Garden arena.

The MGM has one fight left on the multimillion-dollar, six-fight deal it signed with Tyson after he was released from prison in March, 1995, and it is unclear whether the MGM might want to end its relationship with the controversial fighter prematurely.

"We're not commenting on the Tyson situation," a spokesman said.

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