- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Of course the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission is going to give Mike Tyson a boxing license.
This is the commission members' chance to be big shots, to be on an international stage. They will get their faces on the news and on pay cable television. If Tyson's fight against heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis at MCI Center actually comes off, the commission members will reap the rewards that commission members in every state reap at a big fight: comp tickets and credentials to hand out to family, friends and anyone who can do them good.
What else does this trio do? Normally, being a member of the boxing commission in Washington is as rewarding or as effective as being a member of the commission in charge of keeping manhole covers from blowing into the air. They are not going to let this opportunity for power and glory slip away because of a little moral outrage.
And, of course, Mayor Anthony Willams wants to give Tyson a license because he thinks it will bring money to the District. This is what mayors do anything for a buck for their city. He's not unique. In Miami, the mayor embraced the idea of a Lewis-Tyson fight, but political pressure from above the statehouse and Gov. Jeb Bush put an end to that idea. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman criticized the Nevada Athletic Commission for refusing to license Tyson several weeks ago.
How about that? Las Vegas has a stronger moral compass than Washington, D.C. We have now taken the bottom rung on the ladder of bottom feeders.
But beware. Nearly everyone who tied his hopes for fortune to Mike Tyson over the past few years paid dearly for it. That's why Tyson has been on this desperate road show to get a license since the Nevada commission turned him down Jan. 29, just a week after he attacked Lewis at a New York news conference intended to announce the originally scheduled April 6 fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Showtime, which has Tyson under contract, is trying to get him into the ring to recoup some of the money reportedly at least $13 million it gave the former two-time heavyweight champion to help him avoid jail because of federal tax problems. America Presents, Tyson's former promoter, never reaped the rewards it envisioned after signing him. Shelly Finkel, Tyson's advisor, has made money on the fighter's paydays but nothing like the rewards Don King used to get from Tyson's $20 million purses. And whatever Finkel's reputation was before he began working with Tyson, it is shot now.
The commission may wind up simply looking foolish which would be getting off cheap if, of course, the fight never takes place or, as some insiders believe, takes place overseas. The chances of Lewis-Tyson never happening, and particularly not happening in the District, are strong.
Someone has to put up the money to stage a fight like this. That would require, at minimum, a $50 million purse to be split between the fighters. The MGM Grand was offering a $15 million site fee for the privilege of playing host to the April 6 fight.
The only other serious competitor at the time was Madison Square Garden. MCI isn't the Garden, and Abe Pollin isn't Cablevision, which owns the Garden. When Tyson was supposed to fight David Izon last June at MCI, the promoters were going to have to pay to use the arena. That's not usually how it works, and it is believed the same procedure would be used for Lewis-Tyson. Perhaps some casino money from New Jersey or offshore might show up to pay the freight, but renting an arena is a big jump from being paid $15 million to come to an arena.
There are, of course, Tyson's legal problems in Las Vegas. Police there have turned over to the district attorney two complaints of sexual assault against Tyson. The police recommended that the fighter who served three years of a six-year sentence in Indiana on his infamous rape conviction that involved beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington be indicted on rape charges. Those charges could be filed any day now, and then Tyson would be facing trial at the same time he is being touted as the District's meal ticket.
Also, this was a difficult deal to put together in the first place. The deal involved two competing cable networks Showtime, which has Tyson under contract, and Home Box Office, which has Lewis under contract. To rework the details of that deal again may be impossible. For Showtime, it has to be a two-fight deal. Under the original terms, HBO pay-per-view carries the first fight, with Showtime getting a share of the revenue, and Showtime's pay-per-view would broadcast the rematch. One fight seems remote. Two fights seem ridiculous.
It's Showtime, not HBO, that needs this fight to happen. In fact, it may be in HBO's best interest not to be part of this. HBO has new bosses after the America Online merger with Time-Warner, and sources say those bosses aren't thrilled with the bad publicity that comes with the business of boxing. They were furious at the Bernard Hopkins antics that nearly incited a riot in New York and did just that in Puerto Rico before the Felix Trinidad fight and have privately warned boxing honchos within the organization to keep a lid on the circus acts.
Then there is the political fallout here. While there is no governor or state legislators to howl in outrage, there is and will be some pressure to stop the fight from taking place. Already, the Washington Board of Trade has voiced its opposition, and more pressure could come from Congress.
The Association of Boxing Commissions has recommended that other commissions follow Nevada's actions and deny a license to Tyson. Normally, ABC members honor the disciplinary actions of other member commissions, but this was not a disciplinary action. Nevada simply refused to license Tyson. So the ABC request is simply that, a request, and not binding.
However, the organization has a lot of friends on Capitol Hill who have sought boxing reforms, friends like Sen. John McCain, who supports the ABC as a way to police the sport. If a Lewis-Tyson fight is held in D.C. against the wishes of the ABC, it could result in legislation that would create a federal boxing commission to oversee the sport if the ABC is seen as ineffective.
So by all means, Mayor Williams and commission members, get on board the Tyson Turmoil Train. But the next stop may be filled with trouble instead of treasure.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide