Boxing: Tyson remains a wanted man world wide

Click to follow
The Independent Online

As the Mike Tyson circus, complete with its faded and tarnished main act, scours the roads of America looking for somewhere to stop and pitch tent, possibly for the last time in a 17-year career, two former world champions, Thomas Hearns and Evander Holyfield, have made accommodating gestures.

Hearns, the welterweight "Hitman" who grew into a bloated light-heavyweight world champion, these days fronts Hearns Entertainment Inc and during the week filed notice and a $50 (£35) registration fee with the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services to stage Tyson against Lennox Lewis.

At stake is the right to be called world heavyweight champion by the organisations which recognise Lewis as their holder, measured against the sport's credibility.

It is a fight which the Nevada Athletic Commission has rejected, their patience snapping after Tyson's latest high-wire act went horribly wrong; an intended "face-off" with Lewis developing into a damaging mass brawl. With the state of Nevada (which means Las Vegas as a venue) ruled out, there are 49 avenues left to explore, goes the thinking.

According to Shelly Finkel, Tyson's manager, "seven states have expressed interest in a Tyson-Lewis fight", originally scheduled for 6 April. Among these are Texas, where Tyson has already applied for a licence to fight, while California is next on his list of things to do.

Joining Hearns, representing the state of Michigan – which would appear to be an unlikely venue considering Tyson's blemished record there – is Holyfield, who lost a piece of his ear in a 1996 fight with the former heavyweight champion.

"I really think he deserves a licence. He really hasn't done anything not to get licenced," Holyfield surprised reporters by arguing on Friday. "I think the Nevada commission had their minds made up before the hearing. I think he was judged on the New York brawl, but Lewis got into it, too. Don't make a rule just because it's Mike Tyson. It seems there is a rule just for Mike Tyson."

In explaining the decision to ban Tyson in Nevada, Marc Ratner, the state commission's executive director, reiterated that the mêlée was not the only reason the 35-year-old was denied a licence. He stressed the commissioners were concerned the boxer was not taking medication regularly and was not receiving therapy as had been promised when he got a licence to fight in the state in 1999.

Yet, as America's states grapple with the question of morality versus the mountains of money a Lewis-Tyson fight will generate, other countries have been making noises about hosting a fight between two heavyweights nearer their prime six years ago than now.

Already Denmark, Spain, Britain and South Africa have been mentioned as possible sites since the 4-1 decision by Nevada commissioners 12 days ago served to deny Tyson a licence to fight, and yesterday the Philippines became the latest country to throw its hat into boxing's circus ring.

The Philippines' Tourism secretary Richard Gordon told reporters the country was "serious" about landing the contest to promote the country, which has been saddled with a bad reputation over law and order problems, including kidnappings by the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group in the south.

"We would like to focus on the other side of the Philippines," Gordon said. "It would also highlight the fact that the rest of the Philippines is peaceful." Somewhat of an ironic statement when one thought a world heavyweight title fight (especially involving Tyson) was supposed to promise just the opposite.