Boxing: Tyson forcing Vegas to discover conscience

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Mike Tyson's red mist has cleared sufficiently to permit him a rare moment of biting self-analysis. "I'm not a role model, I'm not politically correct," he agrees as he seeks to repair some of the damage his one-man riot earlier this week caused to the prospects of his $100m (£70m) fight with Lennox Lewis scheduled precariously for Las Vegas on 6 April.

Tyson added: "I'm a boxer – and from now on I will let my boxing speak for me."

It is not exactly one of the great reclamation jobs with the fighter admitting to his manager, Shelly Finkel: "Shell, I was off the wall, the more so because I couldn't get into the audience."

What Tyson might have done if he had got to Mark Melinowksi, a 35-year-old reporter who had carelessly recommended the use of a straightjacket after the fighter had bit into the groin of Lewis at Tuesday's aborted press conference in the Hudson Theatre on Broadway, would probably have brought another shade of pale to the already ashen-faced Finkel.

Finkel is saying that the fight will go on and that the public relations disaster was simply the result of a "misunderstanding" about the choreography of what was supposed to be an eye-catching "stare-down" between the fighters for the benefit of the television cameras.

He might be kidding himself because the unthinkable appears to be happening in Las Vegas. Someone – the pro tem mayor, Gary Reese no less – is asking whether there is a point at which even Vegas must wonder if there is anything else in life beyond the mere turning of a buck.

Said Reese: "This fight is not make or break for the city – if they can't behave like gentleman at a dress rehearsal you have to worry. If anyone saw this, why would would they want to come to Las Vegas?"

Jose Sulaiman, the president of the World Boxing Council knocked unconscious in the mêlée in the old burlesque hall, has no doubt. "If it is up to me, the fight will happen. What happened in New York will sell tickets to the people who want to see blood and drama."

Sulaiman is at least consistent. So attuned has he always been to the profitability of Tyson's raging persona, he installed him as the WBC's No 1 contender the moment he stepped out of the Indiana Youth Centre after serving his time for rape.

The shadow of rape again hangs over Tyson and prospects for the April fight are further endangered by the insistence of the Las Vegas police that the fighter has a new case to answer. Lieutenant Jeff Carlson says: "We feel there is probably cause to indict – that's why we submitted the evidence to the District Attorney's Office."

Still more doubt is cast by Lurther Mack, a hamburger franchise millionaire who is chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which on Tuesday has to decide whether it will licence Tyson to fight Lewis. "I think Tyson's licensing is in some jeopardy based on conversations I've had with other members of the commission," said Mack. Marc Ratner, executive director of the commission, said that he was "perturbed" watching the incident. He had advised the promoters to keep the fighters apart, and is now asking: "Why would you place two sticks of dynamite so close together?"

You don't have to be too cynical to come up with one answer. You would do it to make an explosion – and sell tickets. It's a high-risk strategy but the promoters are probably saying, albeit nervously, so far, so good. So good because yesterday American television and newspapers were still full of the ugliness that came to the Hudson Theatre. So far, only, because of an entirely new factor. It is the possibility that Las Vegas has a conscience.

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