- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

One more roadblock to a Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight was removed last night.

The International Boxing Federation granted Lewis an exception from a court order that required Lewis to fight the IBF's No.1-ranked challenger heavyweight Chris Byrd by April22 or risk being stripped of the federation's belt. John Hornewer, an attorney for Byrd, learned of the exception last night.

However, according to Hornewer, the conditions of the exception included a demand that a Lewis-Tyson date and venue be secured by a specific deadline or else it would be withdrawn. Hornewer also said the winner of a Lewis-Tyson bout would have to fight Byrd within 120 days. Washington appears to be the primary site Tyson officials seek. A June8 date is being sought.

The possibility still exists for Byrd to go to court to overturn the exception and try to block a Lewis-Tyson fight. Hornewer said they would be reviewing the IBF decision before deciding what action, if any, they would take.

If the District Boxing and Wrestling Commission does grant a license to Tyson, however, it could lead to the creation of a federal boxing commission, according to the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. The associaton asked its members to follow the Nevada Athletic Commission's lead and not grant Tyson a license.

District commission members, though, are moving forward and will consider a license for Tyson. Yesterday, commissioner Michael Brown defended the government agency's pursuit to bring the fight to Washington.

"We have been criticized for our role in this, but it is written in the law [governing the commission] that we have a duty to promote and market Washington to bring fights here," he said.

Former commission chairman York Van Nixon, now a vice president in the World Boxing Association, supported Brown's contention:

"When I was chairman, everytime I went to a fight I would seek out promoters to bring fights to Washington."

Byrd (34-2, 19 knockouts) became the IBF mandatory challenger when he defeated David Tua last August. Tua, who had been the No.1 challenger, sued the IBF and demanded that it force Lewis to defend his IBF title. An agreement was reached and signed by a federal judge that set up an elimination bout between Tua and Byrd, with the winner to be granted a title fight against Lewis by April22.

As part of the negotiations for a Tyson fight, Lewis applied to federal court for the right to seek an exception, and the court granted him the right to make that application to the IBF. Yesterday, the sanctioning body's organization voted to grant that exception.

Lewis, who also holds the World Boxing Council heavyweight title, has held the IBF version of the title since he defeated Evander Holyfield in a November 1999 rematch.

If the District Boxing and Wrestling Commission decides to grant Tyson a license, it could hurt the Association of Boxing Commissions, of which the District commission is a member. That, according to president Tim Lueckenhoff, could lead to the creation of a federal boxing commission.

"This is an important decision for the association," Lueckenhoff said. "If one commission issues a license here, it tells Congress that we need federal oversight, which the association does not want, to lose power at the state level.

"We think that Nevada made the right decision," Lueckenhoff said, referring to the commission's decision not to grant Tyson a license for a proposed April6 fight against Lewis at the MGM Grand. That Jan.29 decision came a week after Tyson went berserk at a New York news conference announcing the fight. Tyson and Lewis had a staredown on the stage before the former attacked the latter and a brawl erupted.

Since then, Tyson and his advisors have gone on a nationwide hunt to find a jurisdiction willing to grant Tyson a license. He was turned down in Texas and Georgia and several states announced they would not welcome him. In all, more than 20 different locations, both in the United States and internationally, have been mentioned as possible locations for a Lewis-Tyson fight.

The District has been at the forefront recently. A lawyer representing Tyson said last week he hopes the Nevada commission reverses its decision to license Tyson after Las Vegas prosecutors rejected police recommendations to pursue recent rape charges against Tyson.

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