Boxing: Twist for Lewis as Tyson passed fit

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THE PROSPECT of a unified world heavyweight championship is still far away, despite events in London and Nevada. As American psychiatrists pronounced Mike Tyson fit to box, a potential obstacle appeared in the way of the proposed encounter between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield.

Panos Eliades, the backer of Lewis, the World Boxing Council champion, insisted yesterday that Holyfield, holder of the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles, will complete the signing formalities by Friday. The promoter Don King, for his part, does not want to be held to a timetable, although yesterday he radiated confidence that the fight will take place.

"It's on, that's for sure," King said. "I've spoken to Evander and it's on, he's ready. I've spoken to cable network Home Box Office and it's on, they are ready. I don't deal with excuses, I deal with results. There are no potential stumbling blocks on my side. But there is still a point I have to sort out with Panos. If the fighters don't agree, they should be cut adrift in a lifeboat with just bread and water."

Eliades said: "The fight is not done until the boxers sign for it and we want to do that by Friday. The deal is between Don and myself and there can be no fight until the boxers have signed."

The Lewis camp is worried that if negotiations drag on, they could lose proposed dates in the United States on 5 or 12 December, leaving their champion without a bout for around seven months.

Despite King's talk of Wembley, the bout will almost certainly be staged in Las Vegas, where the casinos would pay huge site fees to host the event. However, South Africa has also shown an interest in staging Lewis- Holyfield. "I'll go where the wild goose goes," King said.

He is looking for sponsors for the contest, for which Holyfield is expected to earn $20m (pounds 12m) and Lewis $8m.

King added: "I'm going to put some nutmeg on the cake and see if we can make this a monster promotion."

There could be a few more of that proportion coming along now that psychiatrists have pronounced Tyson ready to return to the ring, even though they did recommend that he undergo psychotherapy.

Tyson told doctors he was depressed the second time he fought Holyfield in June last year because of personal and financial problems and was feeling betrayed by "people I would have died for".

The report portrays him as lacking in self-esteem and depressed to the point that he has been taking anti-depressant drugs since the Holyfield fight.

The report was ordered by the Nevada Athletic Commission as a requirement for Tyson in his attempt to regain his licence, which was revoked after he bit Holyfield's ears in their world title bout. "I have no self-esteem, but the biggest ego in the world," Tyson told the psychiatrists.

The report says Tyson felt embarrassed and humiliated by having to undergo five days of psychological testing in Boston last month, and was worried people would think he was "psycho".

It also says he has problems dealing with celebrity status. "I don't want superstardom," Tyson said. But it says Tyson is deeply remorseful for biting Holyfield and is highly motivated not to repeat any such behaviour in the ring. "We believe that the risk of such a re-offence is low," the report said.

"It is the opinion of the evaluation team that Mr Tyson is mentally fit to return to boxing, to comply with the rules and regulations, and to do so without repetition of 28 June 1997," the report said. "While we take note of the impulsivity, emotional problems and cognitive problems outlined above, it is our opinion that none of these, alone or in combination, render Mr Tyson mentally unfit in this regard."

A team of six doctors who examined Tyson last month at Massachusetts General Hospital wrote the report, ordered by the commission to evaluate Tyson's application to box again. The commission will meet on Monday to determine whether to relicense him. If rejected, Tyson will have to wait another year for a return to the ring.