Matt Tench reports.
On the day that Mike Tyson was due to announce his involvement in a professional wrestling promotion it became clear that he was about to embark on what may prove the trickiest fight of his career: to free himself from the clutches of Don King.
Tyson made his intentions known in a statement released by Jerry Wald, a Los Angeles music entrepreneur.In it Tyson said: "I have taken control of my own affairs, both personal and business. I have hired new attorneys and accountants who report directly to me. I have formed Mike Tyson Enterprises and I am in the process of moving forward with my life."
Tyson is thought to have chosen Wald and his partner, Irvine Azof, to replace King, but Wald refused to shed light on any future role he might have, saying only: "At the present time I am not answering any questions, but stay tuned."
Tyson, who is banned from boxing for after biting Evander Holyfield's ear in a championship bout last June, has been promoted by King for the last 10 years. He is also thought to be determined to sever his relationship with his two co-managers, John Horne and Rory Holloway.
All three can be expected to fiercely contest Tyson's attempts to free himself from contractual relationships with them, and the matter could well result in a messy and protracted court action. Dr Elias Ghanem, the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission which will adjudicate on Tyson's application to have his licence renewed in July, said it would be "very hard" for Tyson to break his contract with King, Horne and Holloway.
"I don't know if Tyson is thinking that since he is not licensed, that his contract is void," Ghanem said. "It would be very hard for someone to sign with someone else, knowing he already has a valid contract. The way I understand it, it would be hard for Tyson to sign with anyone else without Don King releasing him."
Ghanem's statement gave credence to the view that Tyson might jeopardise his chances of regaining his licence by ditching King. The outcome of any hearing about the licence "depends on Mike Tyson's behaviour and what he does inside and outside the ring," Ghanem said.
Ghanem said he was also concerned about reports that Tyson may owe as much as $7m (pounds 4.3m) in taxes. "Anytime somebody has a tax problem, usually the IRS would put a lien on his purse before he gets in the ring. That would be an issue. We don't like to get involved in that," Ghanem said.
"It wouldn't surprise me if the $7m is accurate," a anonymous source close to the parties told the American news agency Associated Press. The source added: "He can't just walk away from a contract. Mike is just frustrated right now because he can't fight."
Tyson was widely reported to have assaulted King outside a Los Angeles hotel last weekend, but so far all King's public utterances about Tyson have been extremely conciliatory. "I love Mike Tyson and he knows it," King said in a statement earlier this week.
Tyson has earned an estimated $140m in six fights since he was released from an Indiana prison in 1995 after serving time on rape charges. The New York Post claims that that Tyson is down to $150,000 in liquid assets.Reuse content