- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Washington appears to be fading fast in the competition for the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight championship fight. Organizers yesterday took their second trip to Memphis, Tenn., to review an offer, and it seems that city is near a deal to play host to the controversial bout.
Alan Freeman, general manager of the Pyramid arena, said meetings among local investors, promoters and fight organizers took place all day yesterday, and Mr. Freeman characterized those meetings as "positive."
"Things are moving forward in the right direction," Mr. Freeman said.
Yesterday's meetings involved Mr. Freeman and Shelly Finkel, Tyson's adviser; Gary Shaw of Main Events, Lewis' promoter; Brian Young, the local promoter looking to bring the fight to Memphis, and representatives of an unidentified company that will put up the financing for the fight. Mr. Freeman said he expected those meetings to continue this morning, and was optimistic that a deal could be reached.
"The fact that this is [Lewis and Tyson representatives'] second trip here shows that they are interested in making it happen here," Mr. Freeman said.
The organizers were scheduled to come to Washington on Friday to meet with MCI officials. But that meeting was canceled after a possible deal for the fight was thrown into uncertainty by new contract demands from the Lewis camp following a Thursday meeting between both sides that also included the two rival cable networks that are cooperating in a proposed two-fight venture between Lewis and Tyson.
Mr. Finkel and Mr. Shaw were expected again in Washington yesterday, nearly a week after the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission granted Tyson a license. But instead fight organizers went to Memphis again, and Donald Trembley, a spokesman for Main Events, said he was not aware of any plans to come to Washington to meet with MCI officials.
"Nothing has been determined yet as far as going back to D.C. at this point," Mr. Trembley said.
D.C. boxing Commissioner Michael Brown said yesterday he still expects fight organizers to come to the District again for more talks before making a deal.
"I still suspect that they will take another look at Washington and then compare the economics of the deals," he said. "That's what this is about now, economics."
Tyson, who was turned down on Jan.29 by the Nevada Athletic Commission for a boxing license, scuttling plans for the fight to be held April 6 in Las Vegas, is already licensed in Tennessee.
Surfacing amid all of the back-door dealing and frenzied efforts to keep the complicated fight deal together was controversial promoter Don King, who reportedly was in New York yesterday meeting with Lewis' business manager, Adrian Ogun.
A South African newspaper reported that a meeting was scheduled among Mr. King, Mr. Ogun and South African promoter Rodney Berman to discuss an agreement for all three parties to create a partnership. Mr. Berman told the paper the meeting was organized by Mr. King.
The prospects of Mr. King and Mr. Ogun meeting raises questions about whether Mr. King will yet play a role in Lewis' next fight, whether it is against Tyson or another opponent.
Mr. King has been trying to work his way into the Lewis camp for nearly a year, and his presence would create a serious problem for a Lewis-Tyson fight. Mr. King is Tyson's former promoter and is being sued by the two-time heavyweight champion for $100 million. Tyson has vowed that he would never be part of a fight that Mr. King promoted, and Mr. King is hoping to force Tyson to drop the lawsuit by becoming a key figure in the negotiations for a Lewis-Tyson fight.
Organizers have until Monday to finalize a deal for the fight, targeted for June 8, including licensing and venue issues. Lewis had a clause in the original deal that allowed him to demand new contract terms or pull out of the fight by March 15, but he agreed to extend the deadline until Monday the same deadline the International Boxing Federation set for Lewis to either have a deal signed and approved and a venue set for a fight with Tyson, or else start negotiations for a mandatory title defense against the IBF's No. 1 challenger, Chris Byrd.
If Lewis does not comply with the IBF deadline, he could risk being stripped of the IBF version of the heavyweight championship. Lewis also holds the World Boxing Council heavyweight belt, and Tyson is the WBC's No. 1 challenger.


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