- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

Washington's chances of landing the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight were thrown into chaos yesterday as a battle ensued between local promoter Rock Newman and members of the Lewis camp.
Newman, ex-manager of heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe and a former poltical activist in the community, said he was being unfairly used as a scapegoat by Lewis' representatives.
Members of Lewis' camp had voiced concerns about the District as a site for the bout, fearing that it was pro-Tyson, and also raised questions about Newman's influence on the fight.
Another hurdle raised was Lewis making new demands that could put the fight in jeopardy. Lewis did agree to extend yesterday's deadline for a deal that gave him the option of discarding the original agreement.
Among Lewis' new demands is a clause that would force Tyson to pay him $2.5million for each foul Tyson commits in the ring. He also is seeking more than $500,000 from Tyson in damages from the brawl that took place at the Jan.22 news conference in New York to announce the fight originally set for April 6 in Las Vegas. Tyson went berserk on stage, exchanged blows with members of the Lewis camp and, Lewis claims, bit the champion on the leg.
Pat English, an attorney representing Main Events, Lewis' American promoter, would not discuss details of Lewis' contract demands, but he did confirm that changes from the original deal are sought.
"The original contract isn't applicable to this," English said, referring to circumstances that have changed since they agreed on the fight two months ago, before the Nevada Athletic Commission refused to license Tyson.
"This is a mega deal," English said. "When you have so many different strands, with time some things change. But fundamentally, the deal isn't changing."
Still, given the difficulties in putting together this fight in the first place getting HBO, Lewis' cable network, and Showtime, Tyson's network, to reach an agreement on what is supposed to be a two-fight deal any proposed changes in the original contract only raise further doubts that the fight will take place, especially on June 8, the current targeted date.
"It's not unreasonable to believe this fight will never take place," said one person close to the negotiations.
Newman had helped organizers get through the political process in the District to obtain a boxing license for Tyson. The D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission granted Tyson a license at a public meeting Tuesday.
"It is so asinine and disingenous and sleazy to try to manufacture an excuse not to come to Washington because I have something to do with the fight," said Newman, who along with lawyer Jeff Fried and promoter Nat Peake, had been scheduled to be the local promoters through their company, Peak Management Group.
Newman said that he agreed earlier in the week to remove himself from the promotion, and put it in writing.
"I didn't need to be part of the promotion," Newman said. "I got involved in this initially because it would be a good thing for Washington, and I was rooting for the city."
But in discussions with HBO and Showtime on Thursday night, Lewis' people continued to raise Newman's presence in the promotion as a roadblock to bringing the fight to the District.
"If I was going to be involved commercially in the fight, of course I would be interested," Newman said. "But that hasn't been my motivation."
Newman laid the blame for Washington's diminishing chances of securing the fight on English. "Pat English is the driving force behind this," Newman said. "He has demonstrated his dislike for me through the years, but to try to use me now as some bogus excuse about not wanting to come to Washington is ridiculous. I think [English and Main Events] prevailed upon Lennox to not come here."
Fried called the Lewis camp's concerns about Newman "absurd, after Rock had agreed to remove himself legally from the promotion. For them to use that as an excuse is a sad commentary. I can't beleive a 6-foot-5, 250-pound heavyweight is that afraid of 5-foot-9, 190-pound Rock Newman."
There is bad blood between Newman and Lewis, dating back to Newman's days as Bowe's manager.
Lewis defeated Bowe in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. When Bowe won the undisputed heavyweight championship by defeating Evander Holyfield in 1992, he was ordered by the World Boxing Council to defend that version of the title against Lewis, its mandatory No.1 challenger. Bowe refused, and Newman had Bowe toss the WBC belt in a trash can.
Though there were several attempts after that to match Bowe and Lewis, fights never materialized. Newman also had dealt with English and Main Events when they represented Holyfield in his three fights against Bowe.
English denied that there was any personal animosity on his part toward Newman.
"I have no personal grudge against Rock Newman," English said. "I don't know what he is talking about. I have no comment on anything other than that."
District boxing commissioner Michael Brown said he didn't believe Newman's presence presented an obstacle for obtaining the fight. He said he was more concerned about competing cities Memphis and Detroit, both of whom have casino interests in and around their cities.
"The casino cities are flexing their muscles," Brown said. "We are hanging tough, but it's difficult to compete with those cities for the obvious reason."
Tyson has a Tennessee boxing license, and Memphis promoter Brian Young maintains that he has the financing to offer a site fee the proposed bout would be at The Pyramid arena to fight organizers, which could be as high as $13million. Washington has yet to offer a site fee.
"The financing is as solid as you could want," he said. "The deal is ready to be done here." Young has already met with Tyson adviser Shelly Finkel and Gary Shaw of Main Events and said he hopes to do so again next week. Finkel and Shaw reportedly are scheduled to come here Monday to meet with MCI officials about securing the arena for the fight.
Detroit also remains in the running as a possibility. It is the hometown of Emanuel Steward, Lewis' trainer, and also could draw pro-Lewis fans from Canada, where the British-born Lewis was raised and the country he represented in the Seoul Games. Tyson is not currently licensed in Michigan.


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