Tyson lashes out at hearing Suspended boxer angered by questions about biting incident

July 30, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

TRENTON, N.J. -- For 3 1/2 hours yesterday, Mike Tyson listened contentedly as a parade of character witnesses at a New Jersey boxing license hearing took turns describing him as a doting husband and father, a loyal friend and a forthright individual seeking redemption.

It sounded like a perfectly orchestrated script by the new advisory team to the former heavyweight champion who is seeking to return to the ring. He has been idle since last July after the revocation of his license by the Nevada Athletic Commission for chomping Evander Holyfield's ears in their Las Vegas fight, June 28, 1997.

But New Jersey assistant attorney general Michael Haas, who assumed the role of interrogator for the three-man Athletic Control Board, apparently asked Tyson once too often if he was certain the Holyfield debacle would not be repeated.

Tyson's mood suddenly turned. "Now I'm angry," he said. "I said I was sorry for what I did. I just snapped. This ordeal has screwed up my life eternally. Do you think I'd want to do it again?"

Tyson's attorney, Anthony Fusco, quickly moved to control the damage by rallying to his client's defense.

Said Fusco: "It's time for the torture to end. It's time for the frustration to end. It's time to end this man's crucifixion."

Tyson interrupted his lawyer, mumbling, "Why do I have to relive this s- - -?", said Tyson, who shook his head when Fusco said the fighter was going to read a closing statement.

"You know what I mean, man? Why do I got to go through this [inaudible] f- - - - - - all the time?" he said, hitting the table with his hand.

"Calm down, Mike!" said Fusco, but, by the then, the hearing had been adjourned.

And what was previously believed to be a mere formality of granting Tyson a license to fight when the board meets in private Aug. 8 was no longer a certainty.

Tyson's new chief adviser, Shelly Finkel, had determined that seeking a license in New Jersey would prove an easier route than in Nevada, where he was eligible to appeal for a license renewal this month after his indefinite revocation and $3 million fine.

And that route seemed clear until Tyson's outburst. One commissioner, Steve Katz, did not attend yesterday's meeting, and the other two board members -- chairman Gerard Gormley and Gary Shaw -- did not ask a question of Tyson.

In the past, Tyson could try to blame his poor behavior on the behind-the-scenes machinations of longtime promoter Don King and proxy managers Rory Holloway and John Horne. During his yearlong exile from the ring, Tyson has severed his ties with the three, and is suing King for $100 million, alleging mismanagement of his boxing affairs.

Yesterday, he was surrounded by friendly faces and well-wishers who spoke in his behalf.

Even archrival Holyfield sent a conciliatory note to the commission that said, "I have no objection to Mike Tyson applying for a license. I feel he has been sufficiently penalized."

His 9 a.m. entrance to the Hughes Justice Complex was greeted by the cheers of hundreds of bureaucrats who lined the balconies of the six-story courthouse to catch a glimpse of Tyson.

At 10 a.m., the procession of friendly witnesses began, including former three-time world champion Bobby Czyz and one-time heavyweight contender Chuck Wepner.

Both fighters dismissed Tyson's biting of Holyfield as an aberration brought on by the pressure of a major championship fight.

"A piece of the street came out in him," said Czyz, a commentator for the Showtime cable network. Friends with Tyson since 1986, Czyz added, "I have no doubt that Mike is remorseful. He made a mistake. He has gone out of his way to curtail the evil in his life."

Finkel compared Tyson's action to Roberto Duran's inexplicable "No mas" decision in his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard in New Orleans 18 years ago.

"All Roberto Duran wanted was a chance to redeem himself," said Finkel. "Now, Mike Tyson is asking for the same chance to get back in the ring. For the past year, everything he has done is exemplary."

Tyson's wife, Monica, described him as "a very good husband, compassionate, loving and protective. We love each other, but we're also best friends."

Tyson, who was required to seek counseling after his disqualification against Holyfield, also was backed by New Jersey psychologist Bertram Rotman, who examined him for an hour last week.

"I saw a person I never expected to see," said Rotman. "I described him later as a big teddy bear.

"He is surprisingly insightful and a person who really cares about people. I felt he is really trying to make changes, mainly for himself, and to be responsible for his actions."

It is that character trait that Tyson will have to convince the New Jersey commissioners that he has learned to control. Otherwise, lucrative offers to fight in Europe will start looking more appealing to Tyson and his new entourage.

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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