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20 NOVEMBER 2018

 

Lewis v Tyson fallout could destroy WBC




By Anthony Evans: The cards so carefully stacked by boxing’s power-brokers continue to fall atop of their heads following the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s surprisingly brave decision not to grant Mike Tyson a boxing licence. With the controversial heavyweight effectively barred from fighting world champion Lennox Lewis in the fight capital of Las Vegas, the attention of the world’s media has turned towards places like New York and California, which could yet stage the richest sporting contest in history.
Yet the shockwaves of Tuesday’s 4-1 verdict could have a greater effect on the sport’s landscape than merely uprooting the bout from Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. The World Boxing Council, the oldest and perhaps most respected of the sanctioning bodies, could soon find itself walking a tightrope with potential oblivion on either side.

The potential calamity for the WBC will occur if their heavyweight champion, Lewis, gets the green light from his legal team to renege on his contract to fight Tyson, their number one contender. That is entirely possible seeing as Tyson has not only torn a chunk of flesh of the champion’s leg with his teeth, but, largely as a result of that act, is also now effectively banned from fighting in the United States.

While the other State Athletic Commissions are not bound to adhere to Nevada’s ruling, most are likely to. That is why Tyson’s lawyer, Bob Faiss, attempted to withdraw his client’s application before the official verdict was ratified.

Sure, the possibility still exists that the bout could still take place elsewhere: but not if Lennox Lewis doesn’t want it to.

If the WBC, IBF and linear champion decides he’d rather face Chris Byrd, Vitali Klitschko, Kirk Johnson or any other fighter that limits his attacks to his fists, life instantly becomes very unpleasant for World Boxing Council and its president, Jose Sulaiman.

Because of the bite and Nevada’s ruling, Lewis would have excellent legal leverage for not compiling with his mandatory defense against Tyson. The WBC would be very brave to strip their three-time champion in those circumstances, because the inevitable lawsuit could ruin them.

Yet technically (and more to the point, legally) Tyson is still an active fighter and as such still entitled to his No.1 ranking and mandatory shot. If, forced by Lewis’ hand, they decide to dissolve Tyson’s No.1 contendership, the New Yorker (who needs the money) would surely bring his own lawsuit against the WBC.

Simon Block is the General Secretary for the British Boxing Board of Control, an influential member of the World Boxing Council. He believes the WBC could be in big trouble.

He began: Quite clearly the WBC will not want to lose their sanctioning fee for that fight, but it is far more complicated than that. They have an obligation to Mike Tyson as their No.1 challenger. Let’s say for the sake of example that Lennox Lewis decides: Sorry, I’ve had a think about it and have decided it’s not in my interest or boxing’s interest to proceed with this contest, and his lawyers inform him he can legally do so. Then the WBC have to make the decision whether to strip Lewis (for failure to meet the mandatory contender) or not. If they did not it would result in a fantastic lawsuit from Tyson for them to adhere to their own rules.

Remember that New York, Singapore or anywhere else may decide to licence Tyson and therefore allow the Lewis fight to take place, which places the WBC in a difficult position. If Tyson could convince a court of law that his rights have been violated by the WBC then, believe me, that would become an extremely expensive matter. It would probably break the WBC.

Ironically, the WBC has a history of favoritism towards Tyson. It installed him at No.1 upon his release from prison in 1995, despite him being inactive since he beat Donavan Ruddock in June 1991. The results was none other than Lennox Lewis, a more recent holder of the WBC title, was essentially replaced as No.1 challenger despite the fact he had already knocked out Lionel Butler in what was supposed to be a WBC final eliminator. Yet it was Tyson, after blowing away no-hopers Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis Jnr, who challenged for the WBC belt in March of 1996.

Lewis eventually got his shot in 1997 after a lengthy round of legal action; Tyson vacated the belt rather than face Lewis.

One could also argue that Tyson has not earned his current No.1 distinction.

The BBBC’s General Secretary also said that the WBC made a mistake in the aftermath of the infamous New York brawl when Sulaiman publicly stated the WBC would still sanction Tyson v Lewis, knowing full well Nevada could reject his license application. Block said: I don’t think it was a very good idea for Jose Sulaiman to put out that statement prior to the Nevada Commission making their decision. I think any corporate body concerned with the fight had to be silent pending Nevada’s deliberations because any public statement would be seen as putting pressure on the Nevada Commission. That statement was ill timed and I’m very sorry it went out.

But it did and it is now a matter of record that the WBC intends to enforce Tyson’s mandated challenge irrespective of the Nevada ruling. That is potential evidence in any upcoming court case, no matter if it is brought by Lewis or Tyson.

Block also confirmed that the WBC has floundered in these waters before. Four years ago Graciano Rocchigiani won what he thought was the WBC’s light-heavyweight championship, only for ‘champion in recess’ Roy Jones to be recognized at the true world champion. The German has since won a major legal battle against the Mexico based governing body after a court agreed his rights had been trampled on by the WBC.

It cost them dear, said Block. Even now they are facing grave damages from Rocchigiani and it remains a very serious matter for the WBC. I think the creation of the interim titles had the WBC – who were trying to be helpful – tripping over their own two feet. As far as Tyson in concerned, there may be regulations within the WBC for them to depose of him as the No.1 contender (because of his recent conduct) but the question is are they confident that will stand up in a court of law?

Indeed.

In recent years the powerbase of the Alphabet Boyz has waned. Not only has the rule of law weighed down heavily on them, but stars like Oscar De La Hoya, Nassem Hamed, Marco Antonio Barrera and others have increasingly treated the various world sanctioning bodies with diminishing concern.

Now, in a delicious irony, Lennox Lewis – who was treated shamefully by the WBC following his 1994 championship loss to Oliver McCall – has it within his compass to do even greater damage to the body which froze him out for two of the prime years of his career.

Already regarded by many as one of the best heavyweights in history, Lewis could also turn out to one of the most influential.

The author can be contacted at: antpocyahoo.com



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