- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson cannot seem to stay out of trouble. His scheduled title fight with Lennox Lewis was stopped after the relevant authorities refused to grant him a license to box in Las Vegas. The brawl that broke out between the Tyson and Lewis camps at the press conference introducing the fighters made them uncomfortable, to put it mildly.

Tyson, it should not be forgotten, once tried to make a mid-fight snack out of an opponent's ear.

As much as anyone or anything else, Mike Tyson gives the idea of giving grown men a lot of money to put on satin shorts and beat the tar out of each other in front of a crowd a bad name.

For no good reason, Mayor Anthony Williams has inserted himself into the fray, suggesting that Washington's MCI Center might be an excellent venue for the fight.

With the support of sports entrepreneur Abe Polin and others, Mr. Williams been working to bring the fight to Washington.

Of all the bad ideas to ever come out of the D.C. government, and there have been many, this one ranks somewhere in the top 10. A Mike Tyson fight is not the kind of public spectacle the city needs to bring it attention. In fact, it is exactly the wrong way to go.

Mr. Williams has accomplished some remarkable things since he first came into public view. Through his work as the city's chief financial officer under the congressionally chartered financial control board and then as mayor, he has done much to erase the stain left on the nation's capital by former Mayor Marion Barry.

Bringing a Mike Tyson fight to Washington is an open invitation to bring back all the bad Barry-related memories.

Think about what the city was like under Mr. Barry's leadership. After so many years as mayor, Washington was scandal-plagued, leading the nation only in the number of murders committed, depending on how one did the math.

A promising political career soured over time as Mr. Barry became the symbol of a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy that could do few things well, aside from handing out parking tickets with lightning efficiency.

The mayor's after-hours exploits were regular fodder for the city's news media as he became a national laughing stock, lampooned on a regular basis by late-night television comedians.

Near the end of his third term, he was arrested at a downtown hotel in the company of a woman not his wife with drugs present in the hotel room. His comment about being "set up" was quickly reprinted on t-shirts and bumper stickers, as some tried to transform him into a public pawn in the struggle to maintain home rule, supposedly a black vs. white fight.

Mr. Barry served six months in a correctional facility outside Virginia and then re-emerged in a stunning political comeback, winning election to the D.C. City Council and then to a fourth term as mayor.

As Washington teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, the new Republican Congress intervened, ordering the imposition of a financial control board that would oversee most of the Barry administration's major decisions.

It was his work on the control board that first brought Mr. Williams to public attention. His success there made him the almost universal choice to succeed Mr. Barry, and he has not disappointed up to now.

Bringing the Tyson-Lewis fight to Washington, as hyperbolic as it may sound, puts the city's revived reputation at risk.

Tyson and Marion Barry are a lot alike in some ways, most importantly in their shared ability to self-destruct and then remake themselves several times over. Neither man is an appropriate role model for city youth. Each has said their tempestuous days were behind them before, only to disappoint many of those who believed in them.

A coincidence that is worth noting is the fact that Mr. Barry has announced yet another political comeback, which is likely to succeed, while Mr. Williams is busy trying to bring the Tyson-Lewis fight to Washington.

Tyson is a reminder of so many of the bad things that the city has put behind it under Mr. Williams' leadership. He is a brutal, vicious man in a giant's body with a baby doll voice, definitely not the kind of celebrity the city should spend resources trying to bring to town.

Washington is not so desperate for money that it needs to host this fight, no matter how much revenue it might generate. There are a number of worthwhile sporting activities the city should try to bring to town a Major League Baseball team should be at the top of the list but if Mr. Williams wants a circus at the MCI Center, he should call Ringling Bros., not Tyson and his people.

For the good of the city and its young men, Washington does not need a bout of Tyson-mania. Mr. Williams should drop the idea immediately.


Peter Roff is senior political writer for United Press International.


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