- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

One day after the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission approved a license for Mike Tyson, Memphis appeared able to offer a site fee of between $12million and $13million for the controversial heavyweight title fight between Tyson and champion Lennox Lewis.
Tyson adviser Shelly Finkel said he hoped to have "a better handle" for where the fight would be after a scheduled meeting with MCI Center officials but also indicated that Memphis "is still in the mix" and acknowledged that Memphis had the advantage of casino money to back the fight. There are about 30 casinos in Tunica County, Miss., 25 miles from Memphis.
Tyson already is licensed to fight in Tennessee.
There appears to be no such site fee in Washington, and organizers will likely have to pay up to $200,000 to rent MCI. However, Washington's profile as a major city could pay off in more pay-per-view buys for the fight than Memphis, and that could be a factor in the decision, industry sources said.
If a decision on location is not made before tomorrow, a contractual deadline kicks in that allows Lewis to pull out of the fight or demand new contract terms.
Lewis is seeking a boxing license in the District, and on Tuesday night commissioner Michael Brown said the commission was waiting for final documents on the application and expected it to be approved soon. Reportedly, Lewis has not yet applied for a license in Tennessee or Michigan, where Detroit is also competing to host the fight.
Another deadline is March 25, by when the International Boxing Federation has declared that Tyson must be licensed and a venue secured or else Lewis, who holds the IBF crown as well as the World Boxing Council heavyweight title, must begin negotiations to fight its mandatory challenger, Chris Byrd.
Under a court order, Lewis was to face Byrd to defend the IBF crown by April 22. However, IBF officials granted Lewis an exception to the order, provided he and Tyson agree to the conditions set down by the organization, including the March 25 deadline.
Byrd has challenged the IBF ruling, which grants an exception to a court order that mandated Byrd as the challenger for the IBF heavyweight crown, and a hearing is set for March 22. But IBF president Marian Muhammad said yesterday she doesn't believe the IBF title will be a dealbreaker for Lewis-Tyson, indicating that Lewis might be willing to give up the belt if it threatens a lucrative fight against Tyson.
"I don't think not fighting for our title will stop the fight," she said.
The search for a place to hold Lewis-Tyson has been under way since Jan.29, when the Nevada Athletic Commission refused to grant Tyson a license one week after he went berserk at a New York news conference announcing the fight and got into a brawl with Lewis and his handlers. The fight originally had been scheduled for April 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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