- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

There is an Abbott and Costello bit that goes like this:

Costello: "What makes a balloon go up?"

Abbott: "Hot air."

Costello: "What's keeping you down?"

What leads me to ask this: What was keeping the old council chambers on the ground during the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission's public meeting Tuesday night on 911 Mike Tyson's application for a boxing license?

There was enough hot air in that room to fuel a trip across the Atlantic, from both the commissioners and those testifying in favor of 911 Mike getting a license.

"The commission went above and beyond the requirements of our statute," said commission chairman Arnold McKnight. "An unprecedented examination of a boxer was ordered, and an unprecedented examination of a boxer took place."

Unprecedented? One private meeting with 911 Mike in a hotel room with commission members and their doctors?

The Nevada Athletic Commission, before it reinstated Tyson after his license was revoked for biting Evander Holyfield on the ears in their June 1997 rematch, made 911 Mike undergo several days of examinations by a team of six doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, then appear before the commission in public for a lengthy question-and-answer session.

911 Mike responded to the commission's faith in him by nearly breaking Frans Botha's arm in the ring and almost causing another riot at the MGM Grand Garden in his first fight back. After a four-month stay in Montgomery County jail for fighting a couple of 50-year-old motorists on the streets of Gaithersburg without a boxing license, 911 Mike again showed what a wise decision the Nevada commission had made by hitting Orlin Norris after the bell ended the first round of their bout. After that, Nevada told 911 to take his show on the road.

911 Mike and his advisers, lawyers and the rest of village that it takes to raise a fighter never had to answer a question in public in this "unprecedented" examination conducted by the three District boxing commissioners. And we never likely will know exactly what this examination uncovered because the commission is not releasing 911 Mike's medical information.

In Nevada, they released the psychological reports from the Massachusetts examination. They had to under the state's public records laws.

Those records showed that 911 Mike had a "constellation of neurobehavioral deficits." But they also revealed that doctors determined, like the District, that 911 Mike was fit to fight and that the risk of any further problems in the ring was low.

"He is remorseful regarding [the Holyfield ear-biting] and is highly motivated to avoid repetition of that behavior," doctors wrote. Then he went out and nearly broke Botha's arm and hit Norris after the round ended.

And 911 Mike wasn't done. Two fights later, he refused to stop punching after the referee halted his fight with Lou Savarese in Scotland in the first round and even struck the referee in the process. He also beat up his promoter over an unpaid jewelry bill and was nearly banned from boxing in England. He followed that up by failing a prefight drug test in an October 2000 bout against Andrew Golota and refusing to take a postfight test, which drew a fine and suspension from Michigan boxing officials.

Then, of course, with everything on the line, there was the news conference in New York to announce Lewis-Tyson initially on Jan. 22, when 911 Mike went berserk on the stage and got into a brawl with Lewis and members of his camp.

This is a man who is fit to fight.

What the commission did Tuesday night was lay down a whole new set of rules in the ring for fighters in the District. In other words, if you have bitten fighters in the ring, tried to break their limbs, failed to stop fighting after the bell has rung, beaten up boxing promoters (hard to argue with that one), hit referees, taken illegal drugs before fights and refused required drug testing and gotten into street brawls as part of an event connected to a fight, you can be licensed in Washington, D.C.

As for the more than 60 witnesses who spoke before the commission all in favor of 911 Mike they contributed their share of hot air, citing 911 Mike's right to earn a living, his need to take care of his family and the desire for redemption for this troubled fighter.

No one would deny 911 Mike a right to earn a living by refusing him a boxing license which is a privilege, not a right. There are lots of ways 911 Mike can make money. He is not disabled. He can work like the rest of us. But if he can't function by the rules of the ring, he shouldn't be licensed as a prizefighter.

As far as 911 Mike as a family man is concerned, let's take a look at the reports released by Las Vegas police, who recommended that 911 Mike be charged in connection with attacks on two women, though the district attorney's office there declined to indict. One woman who claimed she had been sexually assaulted by 911 Mike in his home said she was afraid to call police from 911 Mike's home because "she had heard that if Mike found a woman calling 911 from his residence, he would become violent. She said Mike had caller ID on his phones." I wonder if he was thinking of feeding his family during those incidents.

Now there were those who argued that what 911 Mike did outside the ring had nothing to do with whether he should be licensed to fight. We heard it over and over again Tuesday night, that he had paid his dues. But we also heard that 911 Mike should be forgiven for his mistakes and that this fight should be a chance for 911 Mike to redeem himself. You can't have it both ways you can't ask for redemption for 911 Mike and also claim his sins have nothing to do with seeking a boxing license. One person who testified described the decision to license 911 Mike as a "no-brainer."

He was right.

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