- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

The District boxing commissioner who led the effort to bring the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight championship fight to Washington said yesterday he is pessimistic about the chances of the bout ever taking place.
"I don't think the fight will happen," said D.C. Boxing and Wrestling commissioner Michael Brown, who also acknowledged that the chances of Washington landing the bout are slim at this stage of the negotiations.
"We're hanging on by a thread," Brown said.
It appeared yesterday that if the embattled fight does take place, it would be in Memphis, where "it will sink or swim," said one industry source familiar with the negotiations.
It appeared Thursday afternoon that a deal had been completed to stage the June pay-per-view fight in Memphis, with fight organizers expected to return there yesterday for a third and final visit to "dot the I's and cross the T's," according to one source.
But the situation grew complicated late Thursday when First Tennessee Bank refused to give Memphis promoter Brian Young a letter of credit sought by HBO and Showtime, the two cable networks working together on this bout. The bank was expected to back a proposed $12.5million site fee that would be paid to fight organizers to bring the fight there. Young claimed the bank refused to issue the letter because of "moral issues."
Officials from Main Events, Lewis' promoter, and Shelly Finkel, Tyson's adviser, then canceled their trip to Memphis and were involved in phone discussions Thursday night and early yesterday morning trying to find a way to salvage the fight, which appeared to be on the brink of collapse.
Brown said he had been part of those discussions but yesterday was ready to concede defeat, though he saw it in a different light.
"No matter what happens, I think the District won," he said. "We don't lose. We have some fights coming up here, and I think we showed that we would be ready and willing to host a fight like this. I think this was good for the city."
Despite Brown's belief that the fight will not take place there, organizers said yesterday they remain confident of cutting deal for the bout in Memphis.
"They didn't get it done today, but they are moving forward on it," said Pat English, an attorney representing Main Events. "We are still working on it. These kinds of deals are 99 percent perseverance. Everything is going quite well."
Remarkably, English also indicated that Washington is still in the running.
Young remained optimistic that Memphis can still complete a deal.
"We are working with another bank and we think we will have some good news early next week," he said. "It's not that we don't have the money. But we took a right hook that we didn't see coming, and now we are picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off. We will regroup and have a new game plan early next week. I think we will get it done.
"We are going to sue First Tennessee Bank unless they issue us the letter by noon Saturday," he said. "We will proceed with legal action."
Kim Cherry, a spokeswoman for the bank, said it would not address Young's claim.
"We have a policy of not commenting on the business of customers one way or another," she said. "We let the customer do that, even if they chose to attack the bank. They can say what they want. We can hold our heads up high."
Organizers must have a contract and a venue for the fight by Monday, or Lewis, the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council heavyweight title holder, can walk away from the terms of the original agreement and demand major changes to the deal or even abandon the fight. That could open the door for promoter Don King, who has been working behind the scenes to convince Lewis to accept an alternative pay-per-view fight to the Tyson fight.
"Don is going to make a big run now," one industry source said.
Monday also is the deadline set by the IBF for Lewis to have an agreement in place to fight Tyson, and a venue, or begin talks for a fight against the organization's mandatory No.1 challenger, Chris Byrd.
Tyson is licensed to fight both in Tennessee and the District. The Nevada Athletic Commission refused to license Tyson after he got into a brawl with Lewis at a Jan. 22 New York news conference announcing the fight, which had originally been set for April 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

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