- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

Abe Pollin agreed yesterday to offer MCI Center for the proposed June 8 heavyweight title fight between champion Lennox Lewis and challenger Mike Tyson, with a promise from District Mayor Anthony Williams that the city will guarantee security for the event.
The MCI agreement means one huge hurdle has been cleared toward staging the controversial fight in the District, which appears to be the front-runner to stage the highly anticipated bout.
"The mayor stressed the importance of this fight to Washington, D.C., from an economic standpoint, and he guaranteed a safe environment," said Matt Williams, a spokesman for Pollin. "Mr. Pollin responded by saying he is open to having the fight. If all the logistics are worked out, the MCI Center will be available."
However, where the money will come from to finance such a mega-fight both fighters could command purses of between $20million and $25million in the District is unknown. The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas had been willing to pay promoters $15million to stage the fight before Tyson's boxing license application was denied by Nevada officials.
Interests in Memphis and Detroit there are casinos in or near both cities have claimed they have the financing to put up a site fee for the fight. No one has made such a claim in the District, and promoters would have to pay Pollin to rent MCI Center.
Today or tomorrow, Lewis' representatives are expected to be in the District to meet with members of the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission to finalize the champion's application for a boxing license a step that Lewis has not taken in either of the other cities competing for the fight.
Gary Shaw of Main Events, Lewis' American promoter, confirmed yesterday that the process of finishing up Lewis' boxing license in the District is ongoing and also confirmed that the champion has not formally applied for a license in Tennessee, where Tyson already has been approved, or Michigan.
The more difficult license to obtain which has kept this fight from taking place is Tyson's. He was denied a boxing license in Nevada on Jan.29, one week after his brawl with Lewis at a New York news conference to announce the fight, originally scheduled for April6 at the MGM Grand. Tyson was turned down in Texas and Georgia, and the Colorado Boxing Commission denied a request by a promoter to put on a Lewis-Tyson fight there. More than 20 locations, both in the United States and elsewhere, have been mentioned as possible locations for the bout.
Tyson met privately with the three members of the District boxing commission and the commission's chief doctor Tuesday at a city hotel, flying in from his Hawaii training location. Commissioner Michael Brown said yesterday that part of their meeting involved discussing Tyson's psychological health a key component in the commission's decision whether to license Tyson.
"We are in the process of having the psychological data analyzed and will come to some conclusion based on that," Brown said.
Williams also has said that any material from Tyson's meeting with the commission should be made public. Brown said the commission is still discussing that, adding, "We're considering how to disseminate it, if we disseminate it at all."
Brown said the commission hopes to reach that conclusion and a decision on Tyson's boxing license by Tuesday, when the commission is scheduled to hold a public meeting on Tyson's application.
"A lot of it depends on everyone getting all the paperwork that is needed to us on time and having all the I's dotted and T's crossed," Brown said.
Tyson's appearances before the athletic commission in Nevada, including the Jan.29 session, were conducted in public. And the psychological information obtained when he sought to be reinstated more than a year after biting Evander Holyfield's ears in their June 1997 rematch in Las Vegas also was made public.
Pressure is on fight organizers to secure a license for Tyson and a venue for the fight soon, or else risk having the deal between the fighters fall apart. The biggest deadline looming is the March15 date written into the original contract for a Lewis-Tyson fight. It allows Lewis to seek other terms or pull out of the fight, industry sources said.
Neither Shaw nor Jay Larkin, Showtime's boxing boss, would discuss any contractual deadlines that could affect the future of the fight. Shaw has acknowledged that there are contractual deadlines that must be met, but he wouldn't disclose what those are.
Another deadline is March25, when the International Boxing Federation requires Tyson to be licensed and a venue for the fight secured. If those stipulations are not met in time, Lewis must begin talks with the IBF's mandatory top challenger, Chris Byrd, for a title fight, or risk being stripped of the IBF version of the heavyweight championship. Lewis also holds the World Boxing Council version of the title.
Byrd today will appeal the IBF's decision to grant Lewis an exception to a court order for him to defend his IBF belt against Byrd by April22, according to Byrd representative John Hornewer. If the IBF denies the appeal, it could lead to a lawsuit by Byrd that would seek to stop a Lewis-Tyson bout.
Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.


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