• Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

To its great credit, the Nevada Athletic Commission did the right thing last Tuesday when it voted 4-1 to deny a boxing license to career criminal Mike Tyson, who wanted to fight Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight championship on April 6 at the MGM Grand Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas.

In rejecting Tyson, boxing commissioners put principle above profit despite heavy behind-the-scenes lobbying for the fight from Vegas casinos. As they say in Australia, Good on 'em! And good riddance to Mike Tyson.

If there was any doubt about how badly the Strip casinos wanted the TysonDLewis fight, just look at who was sitting alongside Iron Mike at the Commission's 2-1/2-hour hearing in Las Vegas last Tuesday -- my old friend Bob Faiss, who is one of the most powerful gaming industry attorneys in the nation. In mid-1963, when I replaced Bob as press spokesman for the Nevada Gaming Commission and Gaming Control Board, he was a strong advocate for tough gaming control policies designed to keep undesirables like Mike Tyson out of Nevada casinos.

Although Tyson showed up for the Athletic Commission hearing surrounded by high-priced lawyers and public relations advisers, commissioners weren't intimidated. This fact reflects favorably on Gov. Kenny Guinn, who appointed the four commissioners who voted against Tyson; only commissioner Luther Mack of Reno, who was appointed by ex-Gov. Bob Miller, voted for Tyson.

The Las Vegas ReviewDJournal summarized my feelings about the Commission's principled decision in a Wednesday editorial. "It was a courageous and important decision," the R-J declared, "setting a standard nationwide and putting boxing on notice that Nevada ... will not simply rubber-stamp the applications of fighters who repeatedly engage in disreputable conduct .... Those fighters who believe their drawing power makes them immune from the rules of acceptable human conduct will have to take their fisticuffs elsewhere."

When it became evident that the commission was going to reject Tyson, Faiss attempted to withdraw the application, but commissioners refused. By then Tyson was out the door, leaving his attorneys and advisers to suffer public humiliation. "I didn't think I was going to get licensed, but (adviser) Shelly Finkel was forcing me to come anyway," Tyson told reporters as he headed for his stretch limo.

The TysonDLewis fight would have guaranteed each man a minimum of $17.5 million and pumped up to $100 million into the wounded Las Vegas economy, which has lost more than 11,000 casino and hotel jobs since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Las Vegas Sun Editor Brian Greenspun addressed the financial issue in a Jan. 25 column. "How about the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic advantage that will flow into Las Vegas if Tyson and Lewis get ready to rumble?" he asked. "That money means jobs for people out of work and money for those who haven't had much since last autumn. I know, I know ... but even that isn't reason enough to let Mike come back (to Nevada) now."

Tyson sealed his own fate when he erupted at a New York press conference a couple of weeks ago. He and Lewis were supposed to mount small platforms and engage in the usual macho "stare-down" to hype their upcoming fight. But instead of remaining on his platform, Tyson walked toward Lewis and was shoved by a Lewis bodyguard.

All hell broke loose as Tyson tried to punch the bodyguard and Lewis threw a right at Tyson before they all fell to the floor in a writhing heap of humanity. And then Iron Mike unleashed a stream of vile obscenities at a man who had yelled, "Put him (Mike) in a straightjacket."

For his part, Lewis accused Tyson of biting his leg during the melee. "Mike Tyson bit through my trousers and took a significant piece of flesh out of my thigh," Lewis told the AP in London, adding that he received a tetanus shot for the bite.

This wasn't the first time Tyson pulled a Hannibal Lechter on an opponent. On June 28, 1997, in Las Vegas, referee Mills Lane disqualified Tyson for biting the ear of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. As a result, the Nevada Athletic Commission revoked Tyson's boxing license and fined him $3 million, only to reinstate his license in October, 1998, when Tyson promised to seek psychiatric treatment and behave himself in the future.

But the biting isn't the worst of Tyson's continuing violent behavior. In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping a Black Miss America contestant at an Indianapolis hotel and served three years in the Indiana State Prison. In 1999, he served more than three months in a Maryland jail for violating the conditions of his Indiana parole by assaulting two motorists. And just last week, Las Vegas police announced that they have enough evidence to file felony sexual assault charges against Tyson in two new incidents. No wonder his wife, Monica, filed for divorce last month.

And now, California, New York or New Jersey will have to explain why an ex-convict and repeat violent offender deserves a boxing license. Or perhaps the TysonDLewis bout will take place in Cuba or Iraq on the theory that an outlaw fighter should ply his trade in an outlaw nation with the devil as matchmaker. They'd all deserve each other.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former sports reporter, resides in Carson City.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment