- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

One year ago tonight, Washington was a big-time fight town with what was billed as a big-time fight — the comeback of boxing’s biggest name, Mike Tyson.

MCI Center buzzed with limousines outside and men and women filing inside, dressed to be seen at the scene. Muhammad Ali came, too, to celebrate the victory of his daughter Laila, who won by knockout on the undercard.

But they came to see Tyson. And he was in his best “Baddest Man on the Planet” mode, pacing around the ring before his fight against journeyman Kevin McBride.

Later, they saw Tyson quit on his stool before the seventh round.

What was billed as a great night of sport for the District — a night many, such as event advisor Rock Newman, still say was successful — ended with disappointment. And for some involved, it has been hard to recover.

“I thought it was a great night of sport for D.C.” said Newman, who had been hired by local promoters. “I was disappointed in the outcome of the main event. That was a disappointment. It was a shocking surprise but a disappointment that Tyson didn’t acquit himself better.”

Those in boxing who thought they could profit from Mike Tyson again had to find another way. Some thought they could try Kevin McBride, a business that went belly up before it ever started.

And others, such as York Van Nixon, thought the whole thing was bad for boxing.

“I didn’t even go to the fight,” said Van Nixon, a fixture for more than 30 years in Washington boxing and the international commissioner for the World Boxing Association. “I was so disappointed in the whole thing. I didn’t go to the fight. I knew Tyson had not trained for the fight, and it was obvious. The whole thing was a joke.”

It wasn’t funny to Paul Artisse, a boxing official who takes his business very seriously. He was one of three judges for the Tyson-McBride fight, and, remarkably — though Tyson was clearly being beat — the only one of the three who had McBride winning the fight when it was stopped.

He had done his job, and expected to get paid, even if it was a paltry $150 — about 10 percent what judges normally get for a major pay-per-view fight. But when he went to cash his check from the promoter, it bounced. In fact, checks were bouncing like basketballs on the MCI Center floor.

Artisse eventually got paid.

“I raised so much [heck] that someone came to my house and paid me in cash,” he said. “I don’t know where it came from.”

He took the money, but he kept a souvenir from the night — the bounced check.

There were a lot of souvenirs like that. In fact, Tyson himself had several million dollars worth of such souvenirs — cashier’s checks, no less.

And local promoter Marty Wynn, whose company, Raging Promotions Inc., worked to bring the Tyson fight to the District, has a souvenir as well — a lawsuit he filed in Prince Georges County Court claiming his co-promoter never had the money he said he had to back the fight.

In the aftermath of Tyson-McBride, there are more lawyers bouncing around than there were fighters on the card that night.

Wynn has charged in his $19.8 million lawsuit that the co-promoter, local real estate developer Darryl Stuckey, who was responsible for putting up more than $5 million for Tyson’s purse and other costs, misrepresented that he had the money. Wynn also has included Showtime and SunTrust Bank in the lawsuit, saying the bank had no right to demand a portion of the pay-per-view revenue from Showtime to cover the cashier’s checks that turned out to be bad, and also that Showtime should not have released the money to the bank without his signature.

Wynn, who said his initial deal has been for 50 percent of the revenue from the fight, had thought Tyson would be his ticket to stepping up in the boxing business. Instead, he said he has been nearly crushed.

“What ended up happening was the $5 million was never there,” Wynn said. “In big fights, they want money in escrow to make sure it is there. Darryl was not, from my understanding, able to provide that. I would talk to Darryl and ask, Darryl, do you have the $5 million? He would say, ‘Don’t worry about it, Marty, it’s a done deal.’ But it wasn’t. The money wasn’t there.”

Stuckey said his investor’s group did put up the money for the fight.

“We put the money up, over $5 million,” he said. “[Stuckey] put up $180,000. I don’t understand what the lawsuit is all about. He is trying to get 50 percent, when he didn’t put 50 percent up. Other than that, I should probably refer you to my attorney.”

Stuckey’s attorney did not return a phone call.

Eventually, Tyson, who reportedly had more than $20 million in creditors to pay off, including the IRS, got his money.

“The financial obligations were not met that night, like they were supposed to be,” said Shelly Finkel, Tyson’s advisor. “But within a 10-day period, they were.”

But the battle between the organizers goes on one year later, and the effects are still being felt.

“This has basically crippled my company, Raging Promotions,” Wynn said. “I could not put my all into another promotion right now. We had been off and running. We had grown tremendously, and that was a big power move for us, the Tyson fight. We were moving forward to bigger and better things.”

Those better things were supposed to be a long-term deal with Tyson.

“I didn’t expect Tyson to lose,” Wynn said. “We had a three fight deal with Tyson, and if he had won, it would have exploded. All he had to do was stand up. He was winning the fight. But with a guy like Tyson, you have to essentially baby-sit him to make sure he is in shape.”

Even though most ringside observers thought Tyson was losing the fight, two judges had him leading when he sat in his corner before the seventh round. Tammye Jenkins and Stephen Rados had Tyson leading, 57-55. Artisse had McBride ahead by the same score.

Despite Tyson’s loss, it seemed there was money to be made — with McBride, the new white heavyweight in the picture. But, as the story often goes in boxing, success can sometimes be a more powerful knockout blow than a left hook.

McBride squandered whatever momentum he had coming out of the fight and did not get back in the ring until April, when he knocked out Brian Polley in the fourth round. At 33, he is 34-4-1 with 29 knockouts.

“I had a one fight deal with McBride, and it was set up that if he were to have beat Tyson, his next fight was to be with Raging Promotions,” Wynn said. “What happened was after he won the fight, he thought he had become the next Muhammad Ali. He claimed he didn’t get his training expenses on time, and that the contract wasn’t done right for the next fight. I think he killed his stock because he took so long to get back into the ring after such an exciting event.”

Finkel said he had a deal in place for McBride to fight then World Boxing Council champion Vladimir Klitschko.

“We offered him $250,000 for a fight against Vladimir Klitschko, and he came back and said he had an opportunity to fight Riddick Bowe in Ireland for $750,000,” Finkel said. “I said, ‘If you have that, take it.’ That never happened.”

Newman said there was another fight out there for McBride, who trains in Brockton, Mass., as well.

“In the fall of that year, they could have gotten James Toney, in the Fleet Center, sold it out with 500,000 pay-per-view, and McBride could have possibly beat Toney,” Newman said. “That would have been a hell of a promotion. But they messed it up. That was a colossal mistake by McBride and his people to not keep the momentum going.”

Rich Cappiello, who was McBride’s promoter in New England, said the fight over McBride’s future “got real ugly.”

“Kevin wins the fight, and all of a sudden he becomes a different person,” he said. “He became his own worst enemy. It went to his head. Lawyers started popping up everywhere, and people were trying to get a piece of him. He should have been fighting and got back in the ring quickly.”

McBride may finally get his shot, though. He is scheduled to fight World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Sergei Liakhovich in August. His new promoter? Don King, who did not return phone calls to talk about his fighter.

And Tyson? During a remarkable post-fight press conference, he went on for more than an hour in a stream-of-consciousness question and answer session, discussing, among other things, being a missionary.

“I may be bizarre sometimes, but I’m very rational,” he said then. “I know my situation.”

Tyson, who turns 40 later this month and retired with a record of 50-6, with two no contests and 44 knockouts, has pretty much walked the earth just being Mike Tyson. He has appeared in Italy, England and China, still mobbed wherever he goes.

He also may be on the verge of a new career.

Promoter Bob Arum has signed Tyson to be the television analyst for the international broadcast of Hasim Rahman’s WBC heavyweight title defense Aug. 12 against Oleg Maskaev.

“Having Tyson behind the microphone is going to be very interesting,” Arum told the New York Daily News.

Having Tyson anywhere is always interesting.

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