Iron Mike Tyson is back.
Make that "humble" Iron Mike Tyson.
The former two-time heavyweight champion, pleading for his torture to end, got his boxing license restored in Las Vegas yesterday, 15 months and 10 days after it was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission because he bit champion Evander Holyfield's ears twice in a 1997 world title fight.
The five-man commission, meeting for almost three hours in a hearing that featured Muhammad Ali and Magic Johnson as key witnesses, favored relicensing Tyson by a vote of 4-1. Only James Nave, a veterinarian who clashed with Tyson and his advisers several times in two hearing sessions, cast a negative vote.
"I'm just happy I won," Tyson said when the hearing was over, his wife, Monica Turner, by his side.
Despite his many critics and his foul reputation, the 32-year-old native of Brooklyn with a 10th-grade education remains the biggest attraction in boxing, and his return is expected to give the sport a shot of adrenalin.
Tyson would not speculate about his next opponent, but a bout is supposedly being lined up for the MGM Grand on Dec. 5 in Las Vegas with New Yorker Lou Savarese.
A Tyson victory over Savarese would set the stage for a third Tyson-Holyfield bout, which some promoters predict would be the first $100 million fight. Holyfield has signed to fight Britain's Lennox Lewis early next year in a bout to unify the world heavyweight division.
"I'm undecided right now," said Tyson, who has been in training for two weeks in Arizona. "It's up to the fellows. My life as an individual is a strain right now. There are things I have to work with now, like go through therapy, and I don't know how that might interfere with my training. I have to make sure everything is smooth sailing."
He said he wasn't sure he's prepared to fight this year. "I've been going through a lot," he said. "Regardless of what people think, it's just been difficult."
Tyson wore a black sport coat and white dress shirt and was courteous and soft-spoken. He answered questions from a swarm of reporters until Johnson, the former NBA star who may join Tyson's promotion team, interrupted to "let him go celebrate with his family and friends."
As a condition to his reinstatement, Tyson must undergo weekly psychotherapy as recommended by a team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who examined him last month at the request of the Nevada commission.
The doctors assured the panel that the fighter wasn't likely to repeat the ring outbursts of June 28, 1997, when he bit Holyfield. "The impact of losing his license has been devastating," said Ronald Schouten.
Tyson, hugged by his wife and surrounded by hand-shaking, back-slapping supporters from the crowd of about 200, seemed on the verge of tears after the vote was cast.
"I'm glad," Larry Hazzard, commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, said from his office in Trenton, N.J. "I'm happy for him because he seemed sincere when he was here in New Jersey."
Tyson applied for a license in New Jersey in July but later withdrew the request.
"I can't condone what he did," Hazzard said of the ear-biting, "but he has paid for it, not only financially, but how he's going to be looked at in history. I hope he comes back to fight in New Jersey."
Don King, Tyson's former promoter, who was fired and is being sued by Tyson for $100 million for fraudulently mishandling his funds, said he, too, was happy for the fighter.
"It was the fair and right thing to do," King said from his office in South Florida, "and I am delighted that Tyson will be able to box again. I'm very happy for him."
Tyson's victory, though, came with a warning from commission chairman Elias Ghanem.
"I want to warn you," Ghanem told the fighter. "From my view, this will be your last chance. You will either conduct yourself in accordance with our rules and regulations, or you will probably never fight again in Nevada."
Pub Date: 10/20/98