Originally created 07/31/98

Tyson may get license despite missteps in New Jersey



ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Yes, Mike Tyson lost his cool and cursed in front of the people he's asking to license him. But it may take more than that to keep him from fighting again in New Jersey.

The state Athletic Control Board will meet next week to consider Tyson's application for a boxing license.

The multimillion-dollar question is: How much weight will it give to Tyson's behavior in Wednesday's licensing hearing in Trenton?

While Tyson didn't do himself any good, the money he can make -- for promoters, casinos and the state -- might outweigh whatever damage he did.

"To lose your cool with your attorney, say something out of frustration, why should that have such a big impact?" promoter Dino Duva, president of Main Events, said. "It wasn't like he cursed at the panel."

Tyson was banned from boxing last year after biting Evander Holyfield's ears during their WBA heavyweight title fight at Las Vegas. The ban, issued by Nevada regulators, allowed Tyson to apply for a license after one year. He chose to do so in New Jersey instead, and if turned down there, he can still apply in Nevada.

His supporters told board members Wednesday he was remorseful for biting Holyfield and eager to return to the ring. Tyson was on the verge of tears during some of his testimony, but as the hearing ended, he grew angry and uttered a profanity in an exchange with his lawyer.

"I didn't take it that he was swearing at me or the board personally. He was talking to his attorney at the time," board member Gary Shaw said.

Board chairman Gerard Gormley did not return telephone calls to the board office Thursday.

The third member of the panel, Steven Katz, missed the hearing because he was on vacation. He will not vote on Tyson's license, leaving it to Gormley and Shaw.

"They are going to deal with all the testimony, evidence as well as public comments, which is entered into the record," said Rhonda Utley-Herring, executive assistant to boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard. "That's what they'll focus on, not just that little five minutes we've been seeing on television."

What if it's a split decision? If that happens, action would be delayed until Katz could review the record and a videotape of the hearing so he could deliver the deciding vote, said Roger Shatzkin, spokesman for Attorney General Peter Verniero.

Shaw would not say what bearing Tyson's behavior would have on the license application. The board has 45 days to decide. It will meet next in a private session Thursday.

Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, who said New Jersey should direct Tyson back to Nevada for a license, said Tyson showed he still has problems.

"There's civil, rational behavior and there's uncivil behavior," he said. "This is not appropriate behavior, particularly when you're applying for a license, which is a privilege. Something is wrong here."

Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, said Thursday he would not try to prejudge what New Jersey regulators would do. He declined comment on Tyson's conduct.

Duva said Tyson -- who was licensed to fight after serving a three-year prison term for rape -- deserves another chance.

"The boxing business needs him," Duva said. "He's certainly the biggest draw. If he ever (bit someone) again, you'd have to wonder what's going on."

A lawmaker called on the board to reject Tyson's application, saying approval would make New Jersey "the International Embarrassment State."

"In the end, Mike Tyson showed that he remains a captive of his inclinations to act out in rages of intolerable behavior, whether it is with a woman in an Indianapolis hotel room or in the ring with Evander Holyfield," state Sen. Richard Codey said.

A co-sponsor of legislation that is aimed at regulating certain elements of boxing said he was troubled by comments made by the Control Board's executive director regarding the Tyson hearing.

U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev. took issue with Larry Hazzard's contention that the state's consideration of Tyson's request for a license was consistent with the spirit of the federal legislation.

Bryan said in a letter to Hazzard that he had contradicted himself by saying that New Jersey's consideration of Tyson's request is "entirely consistent with both the letter and the spirit" of the Professional Boxing Safety Act.

Bryan cited Hazzard's testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee last week in which he agreed that bill passed last year calls for different states to recognize and abide by decisions made by other states.

"If suspensions or revocations are not honored between states, it will only serve to embolden those who seek to establish a federal boxing commission," Bryan said.