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Tyson Knocked Out of Nevada

Boxing: After athletic commission denies him in request for license, his title fight with Lewis is up in the air.

January 30, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Las Vegas — LAS VEGAS--Refusing to give in to the economic pressure generated by a fight worth perhaps as much as $12 million to this city, the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Tuesday rejected Mike Tyson's depiction of himself as a victim and voted 4-1 to deny his request for a boxing license.

Rather than citing Tyson's role in a brawl at a news conference last week with heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis as a factor in the denial, commission members focused on a lack of evidence that Tyson has changed much since he bit Evander Holyfield's ears in a 1997 Las Vegas fight.

"We are all losers here," said commissioner Flip Homansky, a former ringside physician, after casting one of the negative votes. "There are no winners. This is not the way this chapter in boxing was supposed to be written. What is unfortunate is that people are going to try to pick over the remains. The issue for us is Mike Tyson's health and welfare. This commission will not walk away from trying to help [Tyson]."

The former heavyweight champion wanted the license to fight Lewis April 6 at the MGM Grand. He said he regretted his actions last week, but quickly tried to blame others.

"I'm just an average guy," Tyson told the commission. "I'm not Mother Teresa, but I'm not Charles Manson either. I just want you to treat me equally."

The lone vote in support of the former two-time heavyweight champion was cast by Luther Mack, a businessman who serves as chairman of the commission. The other nay votes came from John Bailey, an attorney, Tony Alamo, a physician, and Amy Ayoub, a political consultant.

Lewis-Tyson could be worth as much as $100 million with each fighter guaranteed $17.5 million and earning perhaps as much as $10 million more off the pay-per-view revenue.

The fight would have brought sorely needed revenue into this city, which is still struggling to recover from the economic downturn exacerbated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Although Shelly Finkel, Tyson's manager, wouldn't address other options after Tuesday's hearing at the Sawyer Building, there are alternatives.

Staples Center had expressed an interest in the fight before the MGM bid was accepted.

"It's not our decision," Staples Center President Tim Leiweke said through a spokesman when asked if the arena would still want the match. "If the California commission were to license Mike Tyson, we would certainly explore it."

New York's Madison Square Garden was also involved in the bidding. Representatives of Denmark, where Tyson's last fight was held, and Detroit have indicated a willingness to host the match as well.

Before any negotiations can proceed, however, Lewis must decide if he still wants to defend his title against Tyson.

Tyson issued a statement, saying he was "very disappointed" with the commission's decision. "The state of Nevada is entitled to their opinion and they have voiced it today. It is time for me to weigh all of my options and I will act when I have reached a decision."

Tuesday's hearing had been scheduled before Jan. 22 and, until that day, it had been assumed Tyson would get his license.

But that was a disastrous day for Tyson.

He initiated the brawl by taking a swing at a Lewis bodyguard as the two fighters stood on a stage in the Millennium Hotel's Hudson Theater in midtown Manhattan. Lewis responded by throwing a punch at Tyson and, in the ensuing melee, Lewis claimed Tyson bit him on the thigh.

On the same day, a Las Vegas police lieutenant, concluding an investigation into charges Tyson sexually assaulted a woman in his Las Vegas home in September, said, "There is probable cause to believe a crime has occurred."

According to one source, after the events of Jan. 22, MGM Grand officials quietly put out the word to the commission that, while they would continue to publicly support the fight, they wouldn't be opposed to the denial of a license for Tyson.

"The MGM Grand respects and supports the Nevada State Athletic Commission decision," spokesman Scott Ghertner said after the hearing. "We appreciate the professionalism and processes the commission took to reach their decision. We absolutely believe this would have been the greatest fight in sports history."

No charges have been filed in the assault case, and Tyson was prevented by his attorneys from commenting on that case.

Tyson defended his behavior in the brawl by saying he was told he and Lewis were merely going to stand nose to nose for photographers and the situation got out of control because of the bodyguard.

"It was a miscommunication problem," Tyson said. "I wasn't intending to inflict pain on the champion or anybody affiliated with him. It was just a horrible situation that I wish had never happened. It was a bad day, one that I will have to deal with the rest of my life, whether I get a license or not."

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