The Nevada State Athletic Commission delivered a punishing blow to Mike Tyson's boxing future yesterday when it revoked his ring license and imposed the maximum $3 million fine for twice biting heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield during their title fight in Las Vegas on June 28.
The five-man commission, which declared Tyson a "disgrace to boxing," could have suspended the former champion for up to five years. State prosecutors argued that a suspension, rather than a license revocation, would have allowed a maximum fine of $250,000.
"I think what we did was the right thing," said commission Chairman Elias Ghanem. "We wanted to send a message that we will not tolerate this kind of behavior in Nevada."
Tyson, who turned 31 a day after the fight, can apply for reinstatement in one year. If rejected, he would have to wait another year before applying again for his license.
Greg Sirb, president of the 45-state Association of Boxing Commissions, said Tuesday that he expected his organization to support any decision by the Nevada commission.
Tyson's chances of fighting on foreign soil appear blocked by the 20 months remaining on his probation resulting from his TC three-year conviction for raping a beauty pageant contestant.
The commission's decision yesterday was made during a morning hearing inside a packed Las Vegas City Hall council chambers. The $3 million fine -- 10 percent of Tyson's $30 million purse -- was the maximum allowed and will go into the state's general fund.
Tyson chose not to attend yesterday's hearing. On June 30, the former champion offered an apology to Holyfield and the commission, saying he was willing to accept any punishment short of a lifetime ban.
His attorneys, Oscar Goodman and Marty Keech, pleaded for leniency on his behalf. Goodman described Tyson as having been "a gentleman in the ring throughout his 13-year career and never brought anything but credit to boxing. He remains a gentleman and retains his dignity today."
Holyfield, who is on a goodwill tour of South Africa, was represented at the hearing by attorney Mike Thomas.
"Although Evander is the most direct victim of the acts of Mike Tyson, he has no interest in having this proceeding punish Mike Tyson in any way," Thomas said. "He has forgiven Mike Tyson. To Evander, this hearing is not about Mike Tyson. This is about the future of boxing and how boxing will be perceived in time to come.
"The eyes of the world are on this commission. People want to know if boxing is a true and legitimate sport whose rules will be enforced or whether it is uncontrolled violence in which even the most irreprehensible acts are tacitly approved."
After the punishment was announced, Holyfield offered no comment. Earlier, he said he did not believe a year's ban from boxing was sufficient punishment.
"Most of the top heavyweight boxers only fight once a year," Holyfield said. "Mike needs a year off to get himself better anyway."
After hearing the ruling, Tyson's attorneys retained the option of going to court to try to overturn the revocation. They argued that the athletic commission lacked the jurisdiction to impose a fine and revoke a license. But commission counsel Don Haight said state law gave the commission the authority.
"A two-year ban would be totally unacceptable," said Goodman. "But when everything cools down and the world is about other things, I feel confident you'll see Mike Tyson fighting within a year. This gives Mike the opportunity to come back. He's still going to be young and strong."
While Tyson's longtime promoter, Don King, remained uncharacteristically silent, other promoters predicted that Tyson would be an even bigger attraction once his ban was lifted.
"Financially, his next fight will go through the roof," said Butch Lewis, who promoted former heavyweight champions Leon and Michael Spinks. "If for no other reason but curiosity, everybody will want to see it. It's no longer a boxing match. It's an event."
Since being released from prison in 1995, Tyson has earned an estimated $140 million in six fights. He had regained the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles in 1996 by knocking out Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon, but was stopped in the 11th round by Holyfield last November.
Few question that he will remain a major box office attraction when and if his ring career continues, but boxing experts question whether he can ever regain the skills that once made him the most feared fighter in the world.
"Any more time you take away from Tyson, the fighter, will have to hurt him," said trainer Angelo Dundee, who worked with countless champions, including Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.
"Tyson hasn't been the same fighter since he left prison," said Dundee. "He just hasn't looked like the same guy who used to intimidate all his opponents."
Bobby Czyz, a former light-heavyweight champion who is now a boxing commentator, also said Tyson has lost his edge.
"I don't think we've seen the last of him, but we've seen the best of him," said Czyz. "He's what I call an 'energy fighter,' and it will be hard for him to recapture that after sitting out another year."
Contracts put on hold
Both the Showtime cable network and the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, which signed exclusive long-term agreements with Tyson after his prison release, put their contracts on hold.
In a terse statement, MGM Grand Chairman Jay Lanni said: "An appropriate decision has been reached by the Nevada Athletic Commission, and we will comply with the ruling." The MGM Grand had one fight remaining on its six-bout deal with Tyson worth an estimated $15 million.
Showtime, which offered no comment yesterday, has 18 months remaining on its $20 million pay-per-view deal with Tyson.
Pub Date: 7/10/97