- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

Despite a meeting today in the District between organizers of the proposed Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight and MCI Center officials, the bout remains plagued with doubts.

Under the terms of the original agreement between Lewis and Tyson, today is the deadline for a deal to be signed, sealed and delivered. Otherwise, Lewis has the option of pulling out of the fight or seeking new terms.

Washington and Memphis are considered even in competition for the multimillion dollar event.

Yesterday, Alan Freeman, general manager of the Pyramid in Memphis, said he and promoter Brian Young met with Tyson's advisor, Shelly Finkel, and Lewis' American promoter, Gary Shaw, earlier this week. Freeman said they discussed financing for a site fee.

"Both sides seemed to have been satisfied with what they heard," he said. "I think they are just looking at all of their options now."

One of those options could be Detroit, which had appeared to fall out of the mix. Industry sources said the city is still a contender to play host to the fight.

It's doubtful any agreement will be reached to use MCI, or any other arena, by the close of business today.

"These things take some time, although potentially it is possible," MCI Center spokesman Matt Williams said.

Tyson adviser Shelly Finkel was quoted in yesterday's Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis as saying he expected a site to be selected by "early next week."

But that may prove moot if Lewis balks at the terms of the existing contract or has concerns about the proposed new site of the fight. The bout had been scheduled for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on April 6 before Tyson went berserk at a New York news conference Jan.22. One week later, the Nevada Athletic Commission refused to grant Tyson a license.

Industry sources say Lewis has some serious reservations about coming to the District because he perceives it as a pro-Tyson town. Those sources say Detroit may wind up as Lewis' preferred site. It is the hometown of his trainer, Emanuel Steward, who told the Detroit News last weekend that the city was a favorite to hold the fight.

"Detroit is in the lead," Steward said. "It looks good for the city." However, little news has emerged from Detroit since the trainer's statements.

Memphis is considered an attractive site because of the proximity of casinos in Tunica, Miss., about 25 miles south, and it has been reported that a site fee between $12million and $13million is being offered something that has not surfaced in the District, where organizers would have to pay to use MCI Center.

However, Finkel said the Tyson camp has someone willing to pay a site fee in the District. The MGM Grand was to have paid a $15million fee to hold the fight.

Tyson is licensed in both Tennessee and the District after the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission unanimously approved his application Tuesday during a public meeting at which more than 60 people testified, all in favor of granting Tyson's license.

Tyson is not licensed in Michigan, where he had his boxing license suspended for 90 days after an October 2000 fight with Andrew Golota. Tyson tested positive for marijuana use before the fight and refused to take a postfight drug test. In addition to being suspended, he was fined $5,000 and agreed to a $200,000 settlement to be paid to a group of Michigan charities.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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