Mike Tyson received a license to fight in Washington on a 3–0 vote by the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission, setting the stage for June 8 bout with Lennox at the MCI Center.
"We looked at the application that's what it is," vice chairman Michael Brown said after the vote on Tuesday night. "It's an application for a boxing license, nothing more, nothing less.
"It would be frivolous for us to stand up here and not be concerned about Mr. Tyson's past. ... We did that, we took those things into account and made the decision we made."
The vote came at the end of a 2hour meeting that at times resembled a Tyson pep rally. The commission heard from about 60 speakers, and every single one of them supported licensing Tyson.
"I'm thrilled to be licensed in Washington D.C.," Tyson said in statement released by spokesman Scott Miranda.
"I applaud their decision and will give the fight fans in the District the fight they deserve – the chance to see me knock out Lennox Lewis in June."
Brown said the next step will be to process Lewis' application, which he said could be approved in the "coming days."
Washington is competing against numerous sites to stage a TysonLewis fight. Tyson also has been licensed in Tennessee, and Detroit has emerged as a frontrunner in recent weeks.
Tyson, who did not attend the meeting, has been searching for place to fight since he was turned down in Nevada on Jan. 29.
The Washington commission interviewed Tyson in private last week, and conducted medical and psychiatric tests.
Commissioner Mabel Boatwright said Tyson's medical report would be kept confidential.
"I can say that fatter a complete medical examination, Mr. Tyson is fit to participate in a boxing match," Boatwright said.
Cheers erupted among the standingroom only crowd after Boatwright's statement following the final vote.
The one possible drawback to a Tyson fight would be the lack of a fight fee, usually put up by casinos to stage heavyweight fights. MCI Center owner Abe Pollin agreed to allow his arena to stage the fight after getting guarantees of security from the mayor, but he will be charging rent for the event and not putting up a fight fee.
Opposition groups, such as the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the National Organization of Women, did not attend the meeting. Some of those opposed did express their opinions in advance in writing.
The proTyson speakers evoked biblical references, cited Tyson's "right to make a living" and the fight's potential economic boost to the tourism industry.
Several who spoke said the opposition was motivated by racism, with comments such as "racism is alive and well" and "this is a black and white issue."
Several started a chant of "Let Mike Fight!" minutes before the meeting started. The first speaker, former middleweight champion Keith Holmes, said Tyson "will still roam the Earth," even if the commission denied the license.
"If you take away his privilege to make a living, then kick him off the earth," Holmes said.
Tyson's troubled past includes a 3year prison sentence for rape, a 1year sentence for a road rage assault and a 1year boxing suspension for biting Evander Holyfield's ears during a fight.
Nevada's decision to deny Tyson a license came after a melee at a news conference to promote what would have been a TysonLewis fight April 6 in Las Vegas.
Women's groups have frequently opposed Tyson, but the female speakers were unanimous in his support Tuesday night.
"Not every woman feels it is insulting or appalling for Mike Tyson to fight in Washington," said. Leisa Butler, a member of a group that calls itself WIST – Women In Support of Tyson.Reuse content