- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2005

What a wild weekend. A Washington Redskin was arrested for assault. A Washington National ran over an umpire. And Mike Tyson came to town, and no one got arrested or run over.

Who would have thought Tyson’s arrival would be the least controversial sports story in the city? The chances of that happening were as likely as a Washington baseball team being in first place this late in the season.

Then again, this is the new and subdued Tyson — Mellow Mike instead of Iron Mike. That’s why there was little furor this time around, when Tyson was licensed in the District — as opposed to 2002, when he was still radioactive before his fight with Lennox Lewis.

Three years later, some things have changed. For one, the District actually got the Tyson fight, as opposed to the ridiculous role the city played back in 2002, when it was used by promoters to raise the money in Memphis. There was virtually zero chance of that fight coming to Washington. Since Memphis, Tyson has done Louisville and now Washington. His next stop depends on whether he beats his hand-picked opponent, Kevin McBride, Saturday night at MCI Center.

If he wins, maybe Tyson will be allowed back on the bigger stages in boxing — New Jersey, New York, maybe even Las Vegas.

If he loses the way he did to Danny Williams, the next stop is Scranton.

Also, Tyson has been declawed since he raged on a New York stage and went after Lewis, threatened reporters and offered up the sort of beep-filled sound bites that wind up on “SportsCenter.”

No more. Tyson was on his best behavior in July in Louisville before his fight with Williams, engaging and seemingly under control. And for the most part he has stayed out of trouble. (There was that incident in December in which he was accused of jumping on the hood of someone’s car outside a suburban Phoenix strip club, but who among us hasn’t done that at one time or another?)

Not that he still doesn’t leave victims in his path. But these days they are more of a political nature than a criminal one.

When Tyson was licensed to fight in Kentucky last year, the governor was not pleased and did away with the entire athletic commission. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams didn’t get rid of the entire D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission when Tyson was licensed for this fight — just one commissioner.

Former commission vice chairman Michael Brown — the Washington attorney who was often the face of the board and the contact for those wanting to do boxing business in the city for the past few years — is merely a spectator for Tyson fight week. You won’t find Brown up on the dais at any press conferences or speaking for the commission before the media, though he said he is still getting phone calls from those connected with the Tyson-McBride fight about issues and problems that come up.

Two months ago, Brown was informed he was not being reappointed to the commission.

Not that anyone can really blame Williams — after all, Brown has been laying the groundwork for a run at the mayor’s job. Why would Williams give a potential opponent a stage like the Tyson fight to get attention?

“Yes, there was political fallout,” Brown said. “Probably [Williams] or one of his supporters said Michael is all over the place anyway, but now he is all over the place representing the city. They thought it was a little too much politically. All commissioners serve at the pleasure of the mayor, and he had every right to do what he did. But I think everyone sees why. It was politics. I think everyone understands that.”

Vince Morris, spokesman for Williams, dismissed the notion that Brown was taken off the commission because of the spotlight the Tyson fight offered.

“I think there is a lot going on that will get attention, but I think Michael Brown was not really a factor,” Morris said.

“Mike Brown has been out raising money and preparing to run for mayor against an incumbent mayor, and that’s a little out of keeping with normally the ways you act if the mayor appoints you to serve on a commission or a board. That said, the mayor also does feel like he wants to have some fresh blood on his boards and commissions. Mr. Brown served well, but he has also served a couple of terms, and there is something to be said for mixing it up. That was part of his thinking as well.”

Unlike 2002, when the mayor was not pleased with the effort to land the Lewis-Tyson fight, Williams welcomes Tyson to town this time.

“In 2002, Tyson’s criminal record loomed a little larger, and he had just had that brawl,” Morris said. “There isn’t the same level of hysteria surrounding Tyson, and the mayor was interested in this opportunity. There are people who come to the city and spend money and stay in hotels and eat at restaurants who come to big fights. His position has changed a little bit. Things were very different three years ago.”

Yes, they were. Mike Tyson was a far more fearful figure back then. Now he is seen as a political asset. And the Washington Nationals are in first place.

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