THE REALITY OF SHRINKING REVENUES and increasing costs is beginning to set in, both in the private and public sectors. The nation’s governors met in Washington, DC this week to figure out how to maintain all those expensive programs they started when tax revenues seemed unlimited. Meanwhile, the airline industry finds itself bleeding red ink by the barrel, while Amtrak need billions of dollars to keep the trains running. The travel and tourism industry is suffering because of a slowing economy and fears induced by September 11.
While most jurisdictions are reluctantly going through economic belt tightening, the Washington, DC city government thinks it has found an answer to its economic problems – host the Tyson-Lewis Heavyweight Championship fight. The siren song of a promised $200 million windfall has caught the attention of Mayor Anthony Williams. Thus it is no surprise that the DC Boxing Commission – all appointed by Williams - has met and invited Tyson to apply for a boxing license.
This fight had originally been scheduled for Las Vegas, NV in April. Only after Tyson bit Lennox Lewis on the leg during their pre-fight press conference did the Nevada Boxing Commission revoke Tyson’s license to fight in Las Vegas. It was a brave decision by the Nevada Boxing Commission that was supported not only by the people of Las Vegas, but the Las Vegas tourism industry. The New York Times wrote ”In rejecting Tyson during the nation's economic recession when Las Vegas needs all the millions it can get, the commission showed something seldom seen in boxing: integrity.” In support of Nevada’s decision the Association of Boxing Commissions recommended that other Commissions deny Tyson a license.
Undaunted the Tyson-Lewis promoters began shopping the world for a site. From California to Denmark the answer was a resounding “No.” Even England, which in 2000 waived its strict immigration policy against admitting criminals, was not willing to host the Tyson-Lewis fight. It seems that the leaders of most jurisdictions support certain standards of behavior and would rather not be associated with Tyson’s violent style and his long record of criminal behavior despite the money.
Tyson is a convicted rapist. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but served only three before being released on parole. He returned to the ring and then bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their championship fight. That atrocity resulted in a suspension of his Nevada boxing license for 18 months. While suspended he attacked two motorists after a minor traffic fender bender, resulting in an incarceration of 3 ½ months in a Maryland jail.
When the Tyson invitation was announced, even the National Organization for Women (NOW) demonstrated against the granting of the license. Finally NOW has spoken up against sexual predators. It seems that they will speak up in the District of Columbia only when the predator is a boxer, not a politician like President Clinton or Senator Packwood.
However, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a longtime advocate for women's rights and a strong supporter of Bill Clinton, is avoiding the issue. It seems that, like Mayor Williams, Holmes would rather follow the money than keep Tyson away from the women of DC.
It is not surprising that the District will support a Tyson-Lewis fight in search of the almighty buck. After all, it has had a history of supporting different standards than its neighbors. In the 1970s Mayor Marion Barry was a very popular man. But the mayor was later caught on videotape doing drugs, convicted and sent to Lorton Penitentiary. No sooner was he released then he again ran for public office and was overwhelming elected to the City Council – an office that he had occupied prior to being mayor.
A Tyson-Lewis boxing match may not assume international importance, yet it is a question of leadership. After all Washington, DC is the capital of the country leading the war on terrorism. What happens here does make a difference.
A Boston Herald editorial said, “You might think that if Tyson's antics were no longer acceptable in Nevada, where gambling and prostitution flourish legally, they surely wouldn't be tolerated elsewhere.” While Congressman Michael Okley (R-OH) in a letter to Mayor Williams urged the Commission to "follow the wisdom of Nevada, Texas, and other states that have rejected license applications for Mr. Tyson," he went on to predict that if the fight takes place, “the District of Columbia will sacrifice far more in its loss of prestige and reputation than any amount of money that could be gained."