By Thomas Hauser
First, the facts. A press conference was scheduled to take place at the Millennium Hotel in Manhattan on Tuesday January 22nd to announce a heavyweight championship fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. The promotion is a joint venture between HBO and Showtime, whose parent companies -- AOL/TimeWarner and Viacom -- are two of the biggest media conglomerates in the world. Tyson was introduced first. Dressed in black, he strode onto the stage and took his place, as planned, on a small platform. Lewis was introduced next. At that point, Tyson left his platform and walked in menacing fashion toward Lewis. Lewis's bodyguard stepped between them. Tyson threw a left hook at the bodyguard; Lewis retaliated with an overhand right; and all hell broke loose. Tyson was the instigator, plain and simple.
During the scuffle, Tyson bit through Lewis's pants and into his thigh, causing significant bleeding.
Once semi-order was restored, Tyson moved to the front of the stage, grabbed his crotch, thrust his hips back and forth, and began screaming obscenities at the media. Someone in the crowd hollered, "Put him in a straight jacket." At that point, Tyson shouted back, "Fuck you, you white faggot. I'll fuck you up the ass, white boy. I'll fuck you till you love me," and other obscenities.
The press conference was terminated. An hour later, Lennox Lewis issued a statement that read, "As a result of today's events, I will re-evaluate my options after the relevant boxing commission has ruled."
Later in the day, Tyson's camp issued a statement that quoted Tyson as saying, "My motivation for approaching Lennox was to stage a face off which I was told both camps had agreed to. It was Lennox's bodyguard who panicked and shoved me. Lennox then threw a right. I was here to promote a fight, not be intimidated. I will never be intimidated by anyone, and Lennox will pay in April."
The Tyson statement was dishonest spin-doctoring. There was no prearranged staredown. Lennox's bodyguard was simply doing his job.
After the chaos subsided, Jay Larkin (Tyson's primary patron at Showtime) acknowledged, "That was an astounding display of rage. I've been doing this for eighteen years and I've rarely been speechless, but I'm speechless now. Tyson is the anti-Midas. Everything he touches turns to shit."
Lennox Lewis versus Mike Tyson was to have been an unprecedented economic venture. Now, for the fight to proceed, three conditions must be met: (1) The Nevada State Athletic Commission must grant Tyson a license to box; (2) Lewis must to agree to go ahead with the fight; and (3) Tyson has to control himself between now and April 6th.
Condition number one should render conditions two and three moot. A license to box is a privilege, not a right. The Nevada State Athletic Commission should deny Tyson's request for a license.
Last Thursday, Shelly Finkel (Tyson's advisor) sent a letter to the NSAC asking that it begin the process of granting Tyson a license to fight. The Commission is expected to consider the matter at a meeting on January 29th. Its members are Luther Mack (chairman), Flip Homansky (vice chairman), Amy Ayoub, Tony Alamo, Jr., and John Bailey. They will be called upon to consider a long list of Tyson misdeeds, both in and out of the ring.
In Tyson's three most recent fights in Las Vegas, he (1) bit Evander Holyfield; (2) tried to break Frans Botha's arm off at the elbow; and (3) hit Orlin Norris on the break twice; the second time, after the bell. Out-of state, Tyson refused to take a drug test prior to fighting Andrew Golota in Michigan and tested positive for an illegal substance after the fight. In Scotland versus Lou Savarese, he punched referee John Coyle so he could punch Savarese some more after Coyle had stopped the bout.
Outside the ring, Tyson has been imprisoned for rape and sent back to prison for assaulting two motorists after a traffic accident. The Clark County District Attorney's office, which has jurisdiction over Las Vegas, recently received a recommendation from the Las Vegas Police Department that Tyson be indicted for sexual assault. Tyson is also under investigation by the United States Attorneys Office for a recent trip to Cuba, and several lower-profile incidents have been reported.
But Las Vegas needs this fight. Business is slow, and each member of the NSAC will be subjected to a variety of political and economic pressures.
If Tyson were a four-round preliminary fighter, there's little chance that his request for a license would be granted. It shouldn't be granted here either. This isn't just an economic issue. Legal and moral issues are involved. A society needs standards and accountability in order to survive. How will the NSAC Commissioners explain their vote to their children if Mike Tyson is rewarded with a license after his most recent antisocial outburst?
What happened at the Lewis-Tyson press conference wasn't a black eye for boxing. It was a black eye for Mike Tyson. Boxing will only be punched in the eye if the Nevada State Athletic Commission grants Mike Tyson a license to fight.
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