A suspicion that Mike Tyson's value in professional boxing's market place would ensure escape from punitive suspension was confirmed in Las Vegas yesterday when the Nevada Athletic Commission imposed a maximum fine of $3m (pounds 1.8m) and revoked his licence.
It means that the former undisputed champion, who was disqualified at the end of the third round of his World Association title bout on 28 June for biting both Evander Holyfield's ears, can apply for reinstatement after a 12-month absence from the ring. He will also receive the remaining $27m of his $30m purse for the fight.
Considering that Tyson's conduct was the most outrageous seen in the modern history of a sport under constant fire from abolitionists, many are sure to look upon the ruling as an expedient compromise.
Perhaps anticipating such a reaction, Donald Haight the commission's legal adviser, insisted afterwards: "Unless the commission changes its mind, this would be a permanent revocation. Without further action, the license would not be restored."
However a more realistic view of the punishment appeared to come from Oscar Goodman, Tyson's chief lawyer. "When everything's cooled down and the world is thinking about other things, I feel very, very confident you'll see Mike Tyson fighting again within a year," he said. Asked if the ban would last longer than a year, Goodman said: "Two years is absolutely unacceptable."
Holyfield made no comment on the punishment when told of it during a visit to South Africa.
After making a public apology last week, Tyson was not present at the hearing, and flew into New York before it began. "He said, 'I'm sorry.' There's no reason to say it again. What more can he add?" Goodman told the hearing. Entering a plea of mitigation, Goodman argued that until last month's contest with Holyfield, Tyson's behaviour in the ring had been exemplary. "He expects to be punished," Goodman said, "but he expects the punishment to be fair."
If Tyson does choose to seek reinstatement - there is now a growing belief that he has grown disenchanted with a sport from which he has grossed in excess of $140m (pounds 83m) since serving three years for the rape of a beauty queen - he will be required to convince the Nevada authorities that his apology was genuine.
Tyson's reputation as a living-on-the-edge predator has always been a large part of his appeal, making it likely that a third bout against Holyfield would set a record in pay-per-view television revenue.
Even if commercial interests, especially the effect of a Tyson fight on casino revenue in Las Vegas, did not dictate the outcome of yesterday's hearing, cynicism is understandable.
As it would have led unquestionably to a restraint of trade action, there was no possibility that the Nevada commission would impose a lifetime suspension, but in view of the circumstances a ban of at least 18 months would have been more appropriate.
The clue to Tyson's future lies, I suspect, not in his promise to seek psychiatric assistance, but in contradictions evident in his utterances prior to both contests against Holyfield. The impression was that of a man confused, caught between the squalid attitude of his cohorts and the growing influence of his wife, who is a doctor.
When referring constantly to his children - "it will frighten them to see me like this," he said of a cut from a head butt - Tyson no longer sounded like the brutal figure who once rejoiced in the idea of splintering an opponent's nose.
It is even possible that despite a grim reputation Tyson has never been a natural fighting man but a bully who cannot handle the sort of rough contests that Holyfield was determined to offer him.
As to the sort of fighter Tyson might be on his return, three years of incarceration took away his vital leg speed anyway. Some of the techniques central to his progress have gone missing and it is unlikely he will ever regain them. Tyson, 31 next year, is not old for a heavyweight, but another year out of the ring will probably diminish him even further.
There is nothing sure about this and time may again alter Tyson's perceptions. However, it would not be a great surprise if we have seen the last of him.Reuse content