- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

The D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission plans to interview Mike Tyson in private as a first step to granting him a license to fight in the District, a stark contrast to the very public licensing procedure the fighter underwent in Nevada.
However, the chances of Tyson staging a heavyweight title fight against Lennox Lewis in the District in June grew slimmer yesterday when officials in Michigan announced that Tyson is applying for a license to box in that state.
Shelly Finkel, Tyson's adviser, said the chances that Tyson would choose to fight in Michigan are "very high."
Patrick English, general counsel for Main Events, Lewis' New Jersey-based promoter, said the District appears to be the leading contender.
But before any license is issued in the District, the boxing commission says it will meet with Tyson.
"It will probably be a private interview," Commissioner Michael Brown said. "It's just a matter of working out the details to make it as efficient and as fair as possible."
It is not clear why the commission wants a private interview with Tyson. The commission would be required to hold two public hearings if it decides to go on with the licensing process. A public meeting on Tyson's application is scheduled for March 12.
Tyson on several occasions was denied a license by the Nevada Athletic Commission in a public process, most recently in a televised appearance before the panel on Jan. 29. A Nevada commission official said yesterday that rules in that state prohibit the commission from meeting privately with a fighter. Commissioners are allowed to meet individually with a fighter in private.
The Nevada board is one of three major commissions in the United States, along with those in New York and New Jersey. Officials from the New York and New Jersey commissions did not return phone calls yesterday.
Mr. Brown said that Main Events has requested paperwork to apply for a D.C. boxing license for Lewis. He said a decision on a license for Tyson and a venue for the fight could be made before a March 25 deadline set by the International Boxing Federation (IBF). Promoters are hoping to stage the fight June 8 at MCI Center.
The IBF said this week that if the deadline is not met, Lewis must begin negotiations to fight No. 1 mandatory challenger Chris Byrd or risk being stripped of the IBF championship. Lewis also holds the World Boxing Council heavyweight title.
Another deadline is looming. Under the terms of the contract with Tyson, Lewis is allowed to withdraw from the agreement if the fight is not set by March 15, industry sources said.
Any timetable depends on how quickly information can be reviewed, Mr. Brown said.
"A lot of it depends on when they get us the information we have asked for and what we need in order to make a decision," Mr. Brown said. That information could include psychological data and other medical information about Tyson.
Byrd became the IBF mandatory challenger by defeating David Tua in August. Before the loss to Byrd, Tua had sued the IBF to force Lewis to defend his title against him. An agreement, signed by a federal judge, set up an elimination bout between Tua and Byrd. The winner, which eventually was Byrd, was to be granted a title fight against Lewis by April 22.
Lewis then applied to a federal court for an exception to that agreement and was granted the right to present an application to the IBF. The IBF's executive committee approved the exception Monday with several conditions. The committee set the March 25 deadline for approval of a license and venue. It demanded that the winner of a Lewis-Tyson bout fight Byrd next and no later than Dec. 8. It stipulated that Lewis begin negotiations to fight Byrd immediately if the Lewis-Tyson fight does not take place. If Lewis doesn't meet the conditions, the IBF can strip him of its title.
Byrd has until Thursday to appeal the IBF's ruling.
Lewis and Tyson each must agree to the terms of the IBF exception before tomorrow or it will be revoked. IBF officials said late yesterday afternoon they had not heard from either fighter.
Tyson has boxed in Michigan before.
In October 2000, Tyson fought Andrew Golota at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich. The fight was stopped after two rounds when Golota refused to continue. Tyson was declared the winner, but it was later learned that Tyson had tested positive for marijuana in a prefight drug test. He refused to take a post-fight drug test.
Tyson was fined $5,000 by the Michigan Athletic Board of Control and his Michigan license was suspended for three months. He also agreed to donate $200,000 to a group of Michigan charities.
With three casinos in Detroit and one nearby in Canada, there may be enough financial backing to put on a fight of this magnitude. No financial backers have yet been identified for such a fight in the District.
Since the rejection by the Nevada commission, Tyson and his advisers have gone on a nationwide hunt to find a jurisdiction willing to grant him a license. Texas and Georgia turned down Tyson, and on Monday, the Colorado Boxing Commission denied a request by a promoter who wanted to put on the fight in that state.
More than 20 locations in the United States and abroad have been mentioned as possible locations for a Lewis-Tyson fight.
Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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