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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Tyson's in a Sorry State and Nevada Needs the Business

September 18, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

Convicted rapist and man-eating fighter Mike Tyson will apply for reinstatement of his professional boxing license Saturday morning in Las Vegas, at a hearing that needed to be moved to a baseball field to accommodate the number of people expected to attend.

Tyson always was a big draw.

This time, however, a crowd is coming to see if Tyson's (ha, ha) "lifetime ban" from attacking human beings legally is, in fact, just a slap on the wrist. His license was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission late last summer, after a bizarre heavyweight championship fight in June in which Tyson sank his teeth into each of Evander Holyfield's ears, as if they were truly made of cauliflower.

Tyson has not fought since, although he has eaten.

Among those opposing his reinstatement are members of the National Organization for Women, who didn't think Tyson should be licensed to fight in the first place after being found guilty on Feb. 10, 1992, of rape and criminal deviate conduct. They do not consider Holyfield's lobes to be more important than Desiree Washington's entire person.

We are about to see how lily-livered Nevada's boxing officials are, because Tyson's return to the ring would mean millions of dollars in income for Vegas hotels and casinos that badly need the business.

They'll probably back down.

Holyfield will then fight Tyson for a third time, promoted by Don King with caps and marquees that advertise: HOLYFIELD-TYSON III: YOU SAID A MOUTHFUL.


When I went to Las Vegas a year ago to listen to Mike Tyson's defense of his behavior, I heard none, because he didn't show up.

A lawyer spoke on Tyson's behalf and asked that his client be shown leniency. But the commission declined, whereupon the lawyer noted that he was acting on his own, inasmuch as Tyson had specifically asked him to not ask for leniency.

Tyson's license was then revoked--as opposed to suspended--by the Nevada commission, with other states obligated legally to honor this decision as well.

The revocation, nevertheless, was seen by many as nothing more than a suspension, because Tyson was free to reapply for his license in a year's time . . . which is now up.

In other words, Nevada kicked out Mike Tyson permanently, temporarily.

Proponents and opponents of Tyson were invited after the hearing to form a line and be heard, one at a time. They scrambled toward the front of the room like contestants called by Bob Barker from the studio audience on "The Price Is Right."

A few said Tyson shouldn't be punished at all, since he seemed to be really, really sorry.

A few said Tyson shouldn't be punished at all, since Holyfield didn't seem to be too upset by now having 1 1/2 ears.

Eventually, up stepped women who objected to Tyson's being permitted to fight at all, he being an ex-convict who served three years in a federal pen.

I remember thinking that banning bad men from boxing would be like banning bad dogs from barking.

This ain't polo. Tyson, 32, is no sportsman. He went to reform school at 13. He was a punk then and he's a punk now. The 1991 rape of an 18-year-old is on his rap sheet for good. A couple of women still have a lawsuit pending against Tyson from an altercation at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. And a few weeks ago, Tyson was accused of assaulting two people after a Maryland auto accident.

He attempted to get around Nevada's ban by applying for a boxing license in New Jersey earlier this year. At the last minute, Tyson withdrew his request and decided to roll the dice in Nevada instead.

Nevada will probably revoke his revocation, suspend his suspension, put Tyson on double secret probation and let him fight.


According to a published report, the Holyfield-Tyson bite fight resulted in tourists spending nearly $9 million in Las Vegas . . . and that doesn't count what was dropped at the gaming tables. That's just for rooms and restaurants and such.

Nevada needs the dough. Tyson brings in high rollers in a way Wayne Newton doesn't.

If it is a question of character, it's no contest. Tyson is unredeemed. In an interview to be published in the November issue of Playboy--I've seen an advance copy--he continues to be an angry individual who's sorry for nothing.

Nevada shouldn't take him back. Tyson used to be safer inside a ring than outside. He's so scary now, I worry that if he works in Vegas again, he might punch a sandwich and eat a referee.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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