Tyson: What’s the price on decency?

Jan 29, 2002 5:03 AM

Di Rocco to return
Chuck Di Rocco, author of Marker Down for the past 26 years, is scheduled to return to his typewriter next month. Although the writing duties have been assigned to other staff members recently, Di Rocco offers contributions to the column.


By Mark Mayer & David Stratton

EVERYONE KNOWS MONEY TALKS. We’ll see how loudly at the state’s Athletic Commission meeting.

Las Vegas needs a $150 million shot in the arm, so the city, state, promoters and other benefactors will probably persuade the Nevada State Athletic Commission to turn the other cheek and reinstate Mike Tyson for a possible title bout with Lennox Lewis. The problem with turning the cheek on Tyson is he’s liable to take a bite out of your ear.

There’s no doubt Tyson is looking to take another chunk from the fight trough, which never seems to run dry when it comes to funding the wayward “fighter.”

The Commission’s decision will supposedly be decided at least a week after Tuesday’s hearing, which Tyson reportedly will attend. Whether Tyson speaks to the Board is uncertain, but it’s probably better that the bully remains silent. Others will most likely speak on his behalf, including those who stand to profit heavily from hosting another Tyson debacle.

The Commission would never have tolerated Tyson’s conduct if he weren’t the cash-cow the state desperately needs to help recover from the economic decline set off by the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Commission chairman Mark Ratner is a good man, but his comment that Tyson was “innocent until proven guilty” over an alleged rape in Las Vegas sounded silly. Tyson was convicted of rape in Illinois a few years back and served time. In effect, that makes him guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the masses.

Another commission member said he would “keep an open mind” and promised “to do what’s right for the state.” Oh, oh. If that isn’t a waffle, I’ll give up breakfasts.

As for the biting incident with Holyfield and last week’s repulsive battle-royal in New York with Lennox Lewis, it’s merely water under the bridge compared to the rape charges and Tyson’s other despicable acts.

There are some critics around town suggesting that Tyson should be licensed to fight Lewis, in the hopes that Lewis will pummel the former champ senseless.

The problem with that pipe dream is that, despite Tyson’s subhuman behavior, he’s no dummy. Tyson will take the money and run ”” literally ”” from Lewis for a few rounds, then take a dive. And with a payday rivaling Kobe Bryant’s yearly salary, who would blame him?

The fact is Tyson is no longer the fighter he was in the late 1980s, when his devastating punches flattened all takers in the heavyweight division. Today, Tyson is capable of leveling only the worst opponents the division has to offer, and even he probably knows he is no match for Lewis or any other top heavyweight.

Others say, why not give Tyson the $18 million and let the fight go on? After all, the city, county, state, the casinos and who-knows-who-else would all benefit.

Perhaps that’s true. But where do we draw the line? I’m sure the casinos could rake in a few more million if they installed brothels in unoccupied rooms, or handed out controlled substances to gamblers needing a fix. But that’s not what Las Vegas is about. And neither is Mike Tyson.

Tyson appears to be on a vendetta to make a mockery of the fight game, which is perhaps the only professional sport that has thrived in Las Vegas, and one that the city has proudly embraced. Why would we allow Mike Tyson to undermine all that this city has accomplished, even for a mega price tag?

Unfortunately, the bottom line is money. The pressure to ignore everything and let an additional $150 million flow into Nevada for the April 6 bout at MGM will be too much to deny. It would be great to see Tyson’s license denied, and human decency prevail. Such will probably not be the case.