LAS VEGAS (AP) - Suspending Mike Tyson from boxing could prove far more costly for the former heavyweight champion than the $3 million Nevada boxing regulators could fine him next week.
Tyson has been an amazing money-making machine in the 27 months since he was released from prison, earning a reported total of $140 million for six fights.
That would dry up if Nevada boxing commissioners impose a suspension of any more than a year, which appeared increasingly likely after they met Tuesday to vote to go forward with his penalty hearing.
"We can do anything all the way from doing nothing to banning him for life," said Dr. James Nave, a commission member.
Though commissioners refuse to say what the penalty might be, it figures to be more severe than the one-year suspension that Oliver McCall faces for quitting in the ring against Lennox Lewis in February.
"Quitting is quitting," commission member Dr. Elias Ghanem said. "Biting is different than quitting."
Tyson's earning power has surely diminished not only because he bit Evander Holyfield, but because he lost to him a second time. But he still would stand to make several million dollars a fight if he was allowed to continue fighting.
Tyson turned 31 on Monday, and his boxing skills also would likely deteriorate under a suspension of any length.
The commission voted Tuesday to suspend Tyson pending the hearing and to go ahead with a formal complaint, which Tyson said he would not contest. His nearly $30 million paycheck remains in the hands of the commission.
All five commissioners declined to say what they thought the appropriate penalty for Tyson would be, but they can fine him a maximum of 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, or suspend him from boxing for however long they want.
The New York Times, citing a person close to the commission, said today that Tyson will probably be barred for at least 18 months and "maybe longer."
Commissioners appeared unswayed by Tyson's apology, although they applauded his decision to seek psychological help.
"Something bad happened in the ring. The apology doesn't change what happened in the ring," said Dr. Elias Ghanem, the commission chairman.
Tyson didn't appear at the commission's emergency hearing, which drew a crowd of several hundred people to Las Vegas City Hall. His trainer, Richie Giachetti, was the only member of Tyson's camp in attendance.
Tuesday's meeting was more procedural than anything, with the commission setting into motion under Nevada law the formal proceeding. Tyson would ordinarily have 30 days to respond, but his attorney, Marty Keach, said the boxer would waive that right.
"It's his desire to move forward in this matter as expeditiously as possible," Keach said. "We're obviously going to ask for some reason and judgment. He also wants to fight again. That's what he does for a living. That's what his whole life is based on."
Before voting to go ahead with the formal complaint, commissioners watched a taped replay of the fight, including slow-motion replays that clearly showed Tyson biting Holyfield's right ear with 38 seconds left in the round, then snarling an obscenity at him.
After the fight was stopped for about two minutes, action resumed and Tyson bit Holyfield's left ear.
"He bit me again," Holyfield could be heard exclaiming on the tape.
Holyfield required 15 stitches to repair the gash in his right ear that caused blood to flow down the side of his face.
"It's not ever going to look like a normal ear," said Holyfield's attorney, Jim Thomas. "He and his wife, Janis, have both kidded about it. It looks somewhere between a Vulcan and a Doberman ear."
Holyfield said Tyson's punishment should be severe enough to deter other fighters and he doesn't think a one-year suspension would be enough. A federal law that took effect Tuesday requires all other states to honor any suspension the commission hands down.
"Most boxers only fight one time a year," Holyfield said. "He (Tyson) probably needs a year off to get himself better anyway. He probably needs the rest. The penalty is probably going to have to be a little more extensive than that."
What about a lifetime ban?
"A lifetime ban wouldn't be too much," Holyfield replied, "but the commission will have to make that decision."
He also did not rule out a rematch.
"After he comes off suspension, and he fights the proper fights, and if it's something that people want to see, then I would more than welcome it," Holyfield said.
Holyfield said Tyson attempted to call him twice Monday, but the champion wasn't at home. While a personal apology would be appreciated, Holyfield said it's going to take more than words for Tyson to redeem himself.
"We have people who'll say whatever it takes," Holyfield said. "I think it was good for him to at least come before the people and apologize. I think that helps. I think now his actions have got to follow."
Holyfield said he would not attend next week's hearing, which is expected to feature testimony from others involved in the fight and from Tyson himself.
"I'll be in Africa," said Holyfield, who leaves Saturday for a tour of South Africa.
New Jersey boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard said he didn't think a one-year suspension would be enough because championship fighters frequently take that much time off to prepare for their next fight.
"He would have to get in excess of a year," Hazzard said, adding that a five-year suspension would effectively end Tyson's career.
The WBA supervisor for the fight said he has recommended to the association that Tyson be banned for life.
"I've not waited for any decision from the Nevada State Athletic Commission," said Leonard Read, who also is chairman of the British Boxing Board of Control.
"Tyson was a guy who had been world champion before and knew about all the disciplines and limitations of the game at the top level - not a second rate boxer doing it at some out of the way stadium.
"Tyson knew he was on the world stage, he knew it was being screened to millions, and people seeing his every move. And there he was, biting Holyfield not once but twice."
A bill moved forward in the Nevada state Senate on Tuesday that would allow the commission to seize a boxer's entire purse for ring infractions such as biting, with the money going to a fund for abused and neglected children. The measure, which is not retroactive, was prompted by Saturday night's incident.
In addition to voting to proceed with the hearing, the commission directed promoter Don King's $29,824,600 check made out to Tyson be canceled and a second check be written for the same amount to the commission. The check would be put in an interest-bearing account until the hearing.
Rival promoter Bob Arum said he doubted King actually had that much money in his account, and predicted the check would bounce when the commission attempts to put it into the interest-bearing account.
"This will expose the fraud and the way he has been dealing with Mike Tyson," Arum said. "I don't think he ever had any intention of paying Mike Tyson $30 million."
Meanwhile, the ring doctor who examined Holyfield's bitten ear and then let the fight go on said that the injury was more cosmetic than a life-threatening danger to the champion.
Dr. Flip Homansky said he allowed the fight to go on because it was his opinion that the ear could not be damaged further in the fight and that it would not interfere with Holyfield's performance.
Referee Mills Lane also acknowledged that "a good case" could have been made for stopping the fight after the first bite. But Lane said Holyfield indicated he wanted to go on.