- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Organizers of the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight left Memphis yesterday without an agreement to have the fight there, as competition between Washington and Memphis for the bout grew nasty when a District boxing commissioner dismissed the Tennessee city's ability to play host to the event.
But as a Monday deadline nears for a deal to be final, promoter Don King is working behind the scenes to present Lewis with a lucrative pay-per-view alternative to a Tyson fight, industry sources said.
After two days of meetings with promoters, investors and city officials in Memphis, no deal was made, industry sources said. Tyson's manager, Shelly Finkel, upon leaving the city, would only say, "there are no negatives there."
Finkel also said that Washington and Detroit are still under consideration, and that he expected a site decision for the fight, tentatively scheduled for June 8, by the end of the week. D.C. Boxing Commissioner Michael Brown said yesterday he believes Washington is still in the hunt, and that Memphis wasn't equipped to put on the fight.
"Memphis can't handle a fight like this," said Brown, who has been the point man for the city in trying to lure the fight to Washington. "They don't have the infrastructure, the hotels, the restaurants. We have the finest police department in the country. They just don't have what we have, and that is what we have going for us.
"We just don't have the casino part," Brown said, referring to the group of casinos in Tunica, Miss., about 30 miles from Memphis.
Washington is competing against more than casino money, though. Sources said that King is hoping to discourage Lewis from fighting Tyson by putting together a pay-per-view package for Lewis, the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council heavyweight title holder.
The proposed fight would pit him against Chris Byrd, the IBF mandatory challenger, on a card in June that would also include World Boxing Association heavyweight champion John Ruiz making his mandatory title defense against challenger Kirk Johnson, and a matchup of two former heavyweight champions, Evander Holyfield facing Hasim Rahman.
King could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, a South African newspaper report had King scheduled to meet this past Monday with Lewis' business manager, Adrian Ogun, as part of a deal to put together an international television partnership with King, Lewis and South African promoter Rodney Berman.
Main Events is Lewis' promoter, and has been negotiating for Lewis in the Tyson talks. However, King has been trying to work his way into the Lewis camp for nearly a year.
King is Tyson's former promoter and is being sued by the former two-time heavyweight champion for $100 million. Tyson has vowed that he would never be part of a fight that King promoted, and King is hoping to put Tyson in a position to force him to drop the lawsuit if he wants a fight against either of the only two opponents that would present Tyson with a large pay-per-view purse, Lewis or Holyfield.
Officials in Washington, though, are still working under the premise that Lewis-Tyson will take place. Brown said he received a call yesterday from Finkel, which Brown believes was a positive sign for the District. "I think that is an indication that we are still in the mix," Brown said. "I don't know why he would be calling us if we weren't. I think they are continuing to see what the best deal is for them."
No meeting has been scheduled in Washington between fight organizers and officials from MCI, where the fight would take place if it comes to the District. They were scheduled to meet on Friday, but organizers cancelled that meeting. They were expected to reschedule it for Monday, but instead they went to Memphis for talks there. Brown said he expected a meeting to take place with MCI officials by Friday.
Brown also insisted that Washington has the private financial backing to produce a site fee to play host to the fight, citing two groups willing to back the event, although he refused to identify the groups. "Money has never been an issue for us," said Brown, a lawyer at Patton Boggs and the son of the late commerce secretary Ronald H. Brown.
"We have viable people that have the documentation to show they have the ability to back the fight. But we don't know if the money people can keep up with the casinos, if the casinos are raising the ante so high. We have to talk to our money people and see if they are serious."
Organizers are under a Monday deadline to complete a deal for the fight and a venue to play host to it or else risk having Lewis exercise his option to pull out of the original agreement. Monday is also the deadline IBF officials set for Lewis to have a deal for the Tyson fight or else begin talks to defend the IBF title against Byrd, the organization's number one mandatory challenger.
Tyson has already been licensed to fight in Tennessee and the District, and yesterday Michigan boxing officials renewed the troubled fighter's boxing license.
Tyson had fought Andrew Golota in Auburn Hills, Mich., in October 2000, and had been declared the winner after Golota quit after two rounds. But Tyson tested positive for marijuana in a pre-fight drug test, and refused to take a post-fight test. He was suspended for three months by boxing officials there, fined $5,000 and agreed to pay $200,000 to be distributed to a group of charities as part of a settlement.


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