- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

D.C. officials yesterday expressed satisfaction with the substance of Mike Tyson's application to box in the city, the latest stop on the fighter's worldwide search for a venue in which to face heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
The three-member D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission unanimously agreed to pursue a bout between Tyson and Lewis in the District. Tyson technically has not yet received a D.C. boxing license, but the board's action yesterday makes his eventual licensure a near formality.
"We're expecting a lot of criticism from this, but we're also expecting a great deal of support," said Michael Brown, vice chairman of the D.C. commission. "This is a huge step forward we have taken today, and we want to have the fight here in Washington. The District of Columbia is not just the White House and Congress. People here are interested in many more things than that, and we think this fight could be a significant economic boon."
Tyson, a former heavyweight champion who served time in prison once for rape and once for assault, has been denied a license in three states.
Mr. Brown yesterday said several steps remain before Tyson gets his D.C. boxing license, including a public hearing on March 12 and the submission of some medical data from Tyson. The commission expects to approve the license at the March 12 meeting.
Given the strong support of the commission and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, denial is highly unlikely. Mr. Williams has said he would not object to the bout, also citing the economic effect on the city.
Tyson's adviser, Shelly Finkel, said yesterday that he is considering a June 8 fight at the MCI Center against Lewis, the current champion for the World Boxing Council and the International Boxing Federation. Lewis' U.S. promoters said they were studying the feasibility of a fight in the District. MCI Center officials confirmed ongoing talks with the Tyson camp to use the 4-year-old arena.
Significant hurdles remain.
A Tyson-Lewis bout could generate $150 million in revenue, but no promoter has stepped forward to guarantee purses for the fighters, a necessary initial step. Lewis has not committed to fighting in Washington and also must receive a license from the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission. MCI Center majority owner Abe Pollin almost certainly will not pay the eight-figure site fee that venue operators typically pay promoters to play host to title bouts.
And Tyson, who already has served three years in prison for rape and another year for a road-rage assault, is under investigation in Nevada for two more accusations of rape. No charges have been filed in those cases to date. However, Mr. Brown acknowledged the chance of more legal trouble for Tyson clouded the prospects of a fight in Washington.
The decision brought a swarm of protests from women's rights groups and local businesses who challenged the city's tacit acceptance of Tyson's criminal history in the name of promoting local tourism and hospitality.
"This is a man with an appalling record of violence against women," said Terry O'Neill, membership vice president for the National Organization for Women. "He is not the economic salvation for the District. There are far better ways to stimulate our economy."
Tyson has a history of out-of-control behavior in the ring. Most famously, Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear in a 1997 fight, resulting in a one-year suspension from boxing.
The Lewis-Tyson bout originally was scheduled for April 6 in Las Vegas. But Tyson brawled with Lewis last month during a press conference to promote the bout, prompting Nevada boxing officials to deny Tyson a license to fight in the state. Tyson similarly was denied in Texas and Colorado, and the search for a new venue also has led Tyson's camp to California, Michigan, Florida, the Netherlands, Denmark and England. Most recently, Georgia boxing officials granted Tyson a license, but Tyson withdrew his application after Gov. Roy Barnes publicly called Tyson "a sexual predator."


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