Boxing: Justice finds its teeth to win on points

Harry Mullan argues that the Tyson verdict sends out a clear message
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The Independent Online
At times the proceedings were in danger of sinking beneath the weight of legalese, the endless quoting of sub-clause this, of chapter that, of the relevant statutory authority, but in the end justice was triumphantly and resoundingly seen to be done as the Nevada State Athletic Commission kicked Mike Tyson out of boxing and fined him a world record $3m for biting off a slice of Evander Holyfield's ear.

It was a judgement which restored faith in boxing's integrity, and it took real moral courage for the Commissioners to act as they did. They must have been under the most severe pressure, from any number of interested parties who stood to be hard-hit financially by Tyson's removal from the business. The former champion is the biggest wealth-generator in boxing, and by deciding to banish him they were hurting the city of Las Vegas, for which every Tyson fight represents upwards of $200m in revenue; they were hurting Don King, the world's richest, most powerful and ruthless boxing promoter; and not least they were hurting their own Commission, which depends largely for its revenue on taxes and percentages levied on promotions in the state.

Apart from legitimate lobbying, there must also have been a real danger of both intimidation and attempted briberty, yet they held their nerve and hit him with the maximum penalties within their power. For that, they deserve a vote of gratitude. Despite the efforts of the Commission's legal adviser to clarify the position, Tyson's punishment was widely misreported as being a one-year suspension. In fact, his licence has been revoked altogether, not suspended, and although the law allows him to reapply after 12 months, the Commission are perfectly free to refuse the application.

As a non-licensee, he is banned from having any business dealings with any person who is licensed by Nevada, which precludes Don King or anyone else from attempting to arrange fights for him outside America. Anyone dealing with Tyson would be jeopardising their own licence - and that includes trainers and sparring partners as well as managers and promoters. In any case, he is not yet free to travel internationally because of his parole restrictions.

Nevada, and specifically Las Vegas, is where the heavyweight money is and there would be no point in Tyson antagonising the Commission there by trying to evade their penalty by fighting abroad. Such a course would almost certainly result in his application being rejected a year from now, always assuming that he could find a country willing to accommodate him.

Realistically, his only hope is to keep his nose clean and his profile low for a year, and perhaps use the time to work on earning some kind of positive image. For years, Tyson's apologists have excused his appalling behaviour by reference to his nightmare upbringing in Brownsville, New York. But I have never heard of him doing anything to benefit those Brownsville residents who lacked his opportunity to escape. Yet Lennox Lewis, whose gross ring earnings would not amount to one-tenth of Tyson's, has poured over pounds 1m of his own money into financing and developing the East London college (named after him) for last-chance teenage under-achievers.

Even after Nevada's $3m fine, Tyson still has $27m left from his purse for the Holyfield fight. Constructive and sympathetically publicised distribution of, say, $5m of that in Brownsville would be money well spent - in more ways than one.

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