|Thursday, January 24
Updated: January 25, 5:30 PM ET
He said, he said, from Mike to Mike
By Tim Graham
Special to ESPN.com
Mike Tyson might never be allowed to fight in Las Vegas again.
But the Nevada State Athletic Commission isn't the only group deciding whether or not Tyson belongs.
Rumor has it Muslim leaders want to excommunicate Iron Mike from the religion. It seems they're wary of the negative image he portrays.
Tyson went berserk again. How many times does that make now? Fifty? One hundred? One thousand?
We've lost count.
But the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world on Tuesday got into a brawl with -- and allegedly bit -- reigning champ Lennox Lewis in New York. It happened at a news conference to announce their April 6 fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After the fracas, a journalist screamed Tyson should be fitted for a straitjacket, leading Tyson to spew profanities that would make Eminem blush, grab his own crotch and threaten to train said reporter in the delicate art of prison sex.
As a result, the most mega of all megabouts is in substantial jeopardy.
Tyson's damage control specialists on Wednesday issued a statement rationalizing his actions. The words, of course, were attributed to Iron Mike, although it's obvious he didn't write them. Tyson's manager, Shelly Finkel, most probably penned them for him.
Wouldn't it have been more entertaining, though, if Finkel had let Tyson draw up the press release? Tyson does have a unique way with words. This is, after all, the same man who once notified Lewis "I want your heart. I want to eat your children. Praise be to Allah." And let's not forget one of Tyson's all-time great quotes: "I can sell out Madison Square Garden masturbating."
Don Rickles would give his left hockey puck to come up with lines like that.
Following is the paragraph sent out by Tyson's people, broken down into individual sentences. Please note in italics what Tyson might have written if given the opportunity:
I approached Lennox to ask if he had any Grey Poupon, but then I got distracted by that voice in my head that keeps telling me I should divest my portfolio of tech stocks and buy more Tinker Toys and Harry Potter action figures.
After picking Lennox's flesh from my molars, I was assailed by one of the deadliest of all creatures: a reporter. So I attempted to broker peace by offering to ram my (expletive) in his (expletive). But in a good way, of course.
If I would have known there were ladies in attendance, I certainly would have offered the same courtesy to them. My bad.
Look, there are only one or two guys out there for me to fight. So for me to intentionally sabotage a $20 million-plus payday against Lennox, I would have to be crazy, right? Use some freaking logic here, people!
For all you politicians, physicists, clerics and think-tankers, please stop asking me to solve the world's problems. I'm sick of providing all the answers for you. And since I don't want to say or do anything else that will compromise my chances of making untold millions, I'll permit my handlers to chain me to a radiator until the night of the fight. But before I shut up: (expletive) Tibet and the rainforest, too!
It's been a bad couple weeks for the Baddest Man on the Planet. On Monday he fired his trainer, Tommy Brooks, apparently because Tyson is so broke he couldn't afford Brooks' services. Last Thursday Tyson's wife, Monica, filed for divorce on grounds of adultery. And lest we forget the New Year's Day incident in Cuba (memo to Mike: it's illegal for U.S. citizens to go there), in which Tyson hurled glass Christmas ornaments at a group of journalists.
The most troubling news involving Tyson, however, is a four-month rape investigation in Las Vegas has led local police to seek a felony warrant for his arrest.
That matter, and not Tuesday's melee, could kill the fight. And whether or not Tyson is convicted of the crime as a repeat offender, the Nevada commission should weigh the charges in determining whether to license him. The commission is scheduled to convene on Tuesday. Three of the five members will need to support Tyson's licensure to grant approval.
Tyson's latest escapades place the Nevada commission in an unenviable spot. The Silver State's tourism industry has been devastated by the Sept. 11 attacks, and Tyson-Lewis was being looked upon for a much-needed boost to the Las Vegas economy.
The casino industry holds heavy sway on the Nevada commission -- the governor selects its appointees -- but approving Tyson to fight would be hypocritical based on their own precedent.
The Nevada commission revoked Tyson's license for 18 months in 1997 and fined him $3 million for twice biting Evander Holyfield's ears. He was relicensed for a 1999 bout with Frans Botha, and Tyson admitted afterward to trying to break Botha's arm during a clinch. The commission eventually told Tyson to take a hike later that year after his punch-after-the-bell no contest with Orlin Norris. Tyson hasn't fought in Nevada since, allowing his license to lapse.
Tyson could always apply for a license in another state. The Lewis fight could be moved to Madison Square Garden, but it will be intriguing to see if A) Nevada is willing to lose that money in the first place, or B) another state is willing to accept the criticism of picking up Nevada's trash.
And speaking of hypocrisy, what of WBC president Jose Sulaiman's words after he was briefly knocked unconscious during the Tyson-Lewis donnybrook.
"There have been so many occasions like this in boxing and nobody's done anything," Sulaiman said after clearing the cobwebs. "It's time to do something."
Guess what, Jose. You can do something.
Remember a couple months ago when the WBC stripped Anthony Mundine of his super middleweight ranking because he had the audacity to exercise his right to free speech by saying the U.S. got what it deserved on Sept. 11? The WBC's reasoning for Mundine's penalty:
"Article V.2 of the WBC Constitution expressly states that, 'The WBC shall have the right to suspend for a definite or indefinite period of time or, depending upon the circumstances, expel, impose a fine or otherwise penalize any member of any committee or subcommittee of the WBC, any boxer, promoter, matchmaker, manager or any other person or organization participating in the WBC activities, if such person or organization acts in any other manner which tends to bring disrepute upon the WBC, its officers or the sport of boxing.'"
Sulaiman certainly could drop Tyson from the rankings for the same reason, thereby eliminating Tyson as Lewis' mandatory challenger. But unless the knock on Sulaiman's head instilled some sound reasoning, the WBC boss won't do that because Tyson vs. Lewis guarantees the organization a windfall in sanctioning fees.
Tyson's latest antics sure have put him in another terrible bind.
We'll soon find out if his drawing power -- or the system that will get rich from it -- bails him out again.
ESPN.com boxing writer Tim Graham covers boxing for The Buffalo News and The Ring Magazine, and formerly wrote for the Las Vegas Sun.