Board judging Tyson has its own troubles 3 of top 4 on N.J. panel paid fines for violating state ethics rules in '91

August 04, 1998|By THE RECORD, HACKENSACK, N.J.

TRENTON, N.J. -- At a tense hearing last week, Mike Tyson spent nearly five hours before the state Athletic Control Board trying to convince its members that he has the "integrity" and "good character" to fight again.

But, like the one-time heavyweight champion, the state board that will decide Tyson's fate has its own troubled past.

Three of its four top staffers -- including athletic commissioner Larry Hazzard Sr. -- paid fines in 1991 to settle state ethics charges for accepting free tickets from boxing promoters for family and friends.

Congressional investigators also questioned Hazzard at a hearing in 1992 about why the board licensed a boxing manager with reputed ties to organized crime.

And, back in the 1980s, the board was the target of two scathing reports by the state Commission of Investigation on the influence of organized crime in New Jersey's boxing industry. The SCI accused the board of being a paper tiger that was unable to regulate the unsavory world of boxing effectively.

Hazzard declined to be interviewed for this article.

Rhonda Utley Herring, a spokeswoman for the athletic board, said the problems have been corrected. Hazzard, a former world-class referee, has been at the forefront of boxing reform, helping to set uniform national and even international standards in such areas as health protections for boxers.

"Mr. Hazzard has made New Jersey an international model," Herring said.

The attention of the boxing world is now focused on the small state agency, as it considers whether to approve a boxing license for Tyson -- a convicted rapist who had his license suspended in Nevada for biting Evander Holyfield's ear during a championship fight 13 months ago. Tyson also was fined $3 million.

Neither Hazzard nor the other staffers will have a vote on Tyson's license. The final decision will fall to two part-time members of the state board: Gerald Gormley, a Jersey shore restaurateur who is the brother of state Sen. William Gormley, R-Atlantic, and Gary Shaw, a Wayne businessman who owns a vending machine company. The third board member, Steven Katz, a Union County lawyer, is out of the country and did not attend the hearing.

The board members -- who have not been involved in any of the controversies that have surrounded the agency -- are expected to meet privately on Aug. 6. They have until mid-September to make a decision.

Gormley and Shaw, who receive $10,000 a year to serve on the board, will base their decision partly on the testimony of Tyson and an entourage of friends who testified at last Wednesday's hearing -- which was uneventful for the most part, until Tyson grew weary of apologizing for biting Holyfield's ear and angrily banged the table and let an expletive fly.

In addition to the testimony, the board members are expected to place heavy emphasis on Hazzard's recommendation.

Pub Date: 8/04/98

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