- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

Today is the deadline for an agreement for the embattled Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight, and sources familiar with the negotiations say an announcement will be made today declaring that a deal is in place.
Organizers have been scrambling to complete a deal for the fight after promoters in Memphis failed to obtain an irrevocable letter of credit from a Tennessee bank Thursday that would have guaranteed a $12.5 million site fee for the bout to take place at the Pyramid in Memphis on June 8.
No one from Main Events, Lewis' promoter, nor Memphis promoter Brian Young could be reached for comment. On Friday, Young said they had the money and were looking for another bank to obtain the letter of credit.
"We are working with another bank, and we think we will have some good news early next week," he said.
Sources said an announcement is expected today, which would indicate the promoters have come up with another bank to issue a letter of credit to back the site fee something required by both Home Box Office and Showtime, the two networks that are working together to stage what was originally supposed to be a two-fight deal.
If a contract and venue are not finalized today, Lewis, the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight title holder, has the option of pulling out of the original contract and demanding fundamental change or even pulling out of the fight. The contract had set March 15 as the deadline that would free up Lewis, but he agreed to extend it 10 days to allow negotiations to continue.
If a deal is not reached today Lewis must begin negotiations to fight Chris Byrd, the IBF's No. 1 mandatory challenger. Under a court order, Lewis was supposed to fight the winner of a heavyweight elimination tournament to determine the IBF No. 1 challenger, who turned out to be Byrd. But the IBF granted Lewis an exception to the court order, provided a fight deal with Tyson could be completed and approved by today.
When Lewis agreed to extend the deadline, Washington was still considered a competitor to play host to the title bout, just three days after the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission granted Tyson a license at a March 12 public meeting. But the money local officials boasted was in the District to back the fight never materialized, and now Memphis stands alone as the last hope to salvage the bout in time.
Organizers also are hoping to hold off a charge by promoter Don King, who has been involved in talks with Lewis' business manager, Adrian Ogun, to offer Lewis a lucrative alternative. That fight would be against Byrd in a heavyweight pay-per-view event in June that also would feature World Boxing Association heavyweight champion John Ruiz facing his No. 1 mandatory challenger, Kirk Johnson, and possibly also matching up former heavyweight champions Evander Holyfield and Baltimore's Hasim Rahman.
If Lewis-Tyson falls through, King could put a stranglehold on the heavyweight division, which would leave Tyson without any opponent to generate much-needed revenue in a pay-per-view fight. Tyson is suing King, his former promoter, for $100 million, charging him with theft and fraud of Tyson's money, and King has filed a countersuit. King is hoping to pressure Tyson by putting the former two-time heavyweight champion into a position where he would have to do business with King to get a large payday. He would then use that as leverage to get Tyson, who has said he would never work with King again, to drop the lawsuit.
Organizers have been trying to patch together the Lewis-Tyson fight since Jan. 22, the day it was to be announced officially at a New York news conference. There, Tyson went berserk on stage and got into a brawl with Lewis, followed by an expletive-filled attack on a reporter in the audience. The fight had been set for April 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but on Jan. 29 the Nevada Athletic Commission refused to grant Tyson a license. Officials in California and New York made it clear Tyson wasn't welcome there, either, and attempts to get Tyson licensed in Texas and Georgia failed.


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