Tyson taking Jersey road Nevada objects to bid to circumvent ban

July 29, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

A war between the states could be triggered in a Trenton, N.J., hearing room today, when Mike Tyson applies to the New Jersey Athletic Commission's three-man Board of Control for a boxing license.

Last July, the former heavyweight champion's license was revoked indefinitely and he was fined $3 million by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for chomping Evander Holyfield's ear in their championship match in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997.

Tyson was eligible to appeal the revocation in Nevada this month, but, acting on the advice of his new managerial team headed by Shelly Finkel, he turned to New Jersey in an attempt to resume his ring career, which was first interrupted in 1992 by a three-year prison term for rape.

Finkel, who once managed Holyfield's affairs, said he "liked the odds better" in New Jersey.

The Nevada Commission viewed the New Jersey hearing as an end run by Tyson to circumvent a federal law that requires the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) to recognize statewide suspensions.

"I feel like I'm at Fort Sumter," said Nevada commission executive director Marc Ratner.

"There can be a lot of interpretations, but in the spirit of the law, states should follow our revocation. Mike Tyson should take care of business here before going anywhere else. This could be the death knell for the ABC."

Jim Nave, a member of the Nevada board who voted to revoke Tyson's license, took a different stance.

Said Nave: "In my opinion, this has nothing to do with the federal law. States honored suspensions and revocation before the federal law took effect. I don't know what the difference is now."

Roger Shatzkin, a spokesman for New Jersey Attorney General Peter Verniero, said there is a difference between a suspension and a revocation.

"We don't think revocation is covered by [federal] law," he said. "We are working within the boundaries of the law. This process is carefully measured. It is no rush to judgment."

But New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco told the New York hTC Post that he has told Verniero of his opposition to today's hearing in a letter.

Said Vacco: "I would be offended if they actually licensed him or permitted him to box in New Jersey. It really undermines what we are trying to do."

Nevada chose to revoke rather than suspend Tyson's license in order to fine him 10 percent of his $30 million purse for the bout with Holyfield. The fight was stopped in the third round after Tyson bit Holyfield a second time.

Anthony Fusco, a New Jersey attorney who will represent Tyson at the hearing, said that the fighter could have elected to apply for a license in any other state but Nevada, but opted to wait at least a calendar year.

Finkel estimated Tyson has lost at least $25 million in potential ring revenue the past year. "That's more than all the fines in the four major leagues," he said, adding that, in the past year, he has rejected lucrative offers for Tyson to fight in Germany, Russia and Canada.

An unfavorable political atmosphere helped persuade Tyson to steer clear of Nevada.

"We got intimations they [the Nevada commission] weren't going to OK Mike until January," said Jeff Wald, another member of Tyson's new advisory team. "That, effectively, meant a two-year suspension. Mike's not getting younger [32]. He's got bills to pay."

Fusco insists Tyson is a changed man.

"We'll probably have witnesses and affidavits to indicate the positive things he has done," Fusco said. "The public doesn't know about his family life. We're confident that the New Jersey board will see the good side of Mike Tyson."

On the surface, Tyson has attempted to mend his ways by severing his lengthy association with controversial promoter Don King and his two managers, John Horne and Rory Holloway.

King's backing led to combined $35 million exclusive deals with the Showtime cable network and the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Tyson reportedly has earned $140 million since being released from prison in 1995.

But Tyson said half that money went to King and his managers, who were widely viewed as King's proxies. Last February, Tyson discovered he owed $7 million in taxes. He fired King and initiated a $100 million suit against the promoter, Horne and Holloway for mismanagement.

Boxing promoter Dino Duva, a close associate of Finkel, said: "My opinion is that Mike has served his penalty and has a right to get his license back and go on with his life."

The New Jersey Control Board is expected to take at least a month before ruling on Tyson's license application. Realistically, he would not be prepared to return to the ring until December.

Pub Date: 7/29/98

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