- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

Time has almost run out to close a deal on the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight.

A meeting in Memphis scheduled for today to finalize the bout there was canceled by promoters last night because local sponsors hadn't come up with a $12.5 million site fee, the Associated Press reported last night. Meanwhile, there was a last-minute scramble in the District to bring the bout here before a Monday deadline that could jeopardize the event.

No meeting has been scheduled between officials from MCI Center and fight organizers and a source told the AP last night that Washington and Detroit had both been eliminated as possible sites. But DC boxing commissioner Michael Brown said last night there are "extensive negotiations" between fight organizers and local promoters to come up with a financing plan to stage the fight in the District.

If no deal is made, Lewis will have the option Monday of pulling out of the original contract and seeking significant changes in the deal or abandoning the fight altogether.

"This fight makes or breaks [today]," an anonymous source told AP.

Meanwhile, another meeting will take place tomorrow in Newark, N.J., this one between boxing officials and the fighter who should be facing Lewis for the heavyweight championship.

That fighter, former World Boxing Organization champion Chris Byrd, is the polar opposite of Mike Tyson. He is considered a good citizen and a talented, sharp fighter, but hardly anyone has heard of him.

"This is the kind of guy that boxing needs to succeed," said John Hornewer, Byrd's attorney.

Hornewer will try to make a case for Byrd to a three-member appeals committee of the International Boxing Federation that the organization was wrong to allow organizers of the proposed Lewis-Tyson fight to ignore a court order for Lewis to fight Byrd and that Lewis-Tyson should not take place before Lewis first faces Byrd.

If Monday's deadline passes and Tyson-Lewis falls apart, the hearing could be moot. But if a fight deal is made and plans continue for Lewis-Tyson, the committee could decide to force Lewis to fight Byrd if he wants to keep his IBF crown.

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