Mike Tyson’s boxing license could be revoked, “never to return,” at a penalty hearing today that could keep him out of the sport indefinitely for biting Evander Holyfield’s ears.
Tyson might walk away from the hearing with no boxing license and no idea when he will be allowed to fight again if Nevada boxing officials follow a recommendation from prosecutors.
A quirk in Nevada law and the desire by boxing regulators to fine Tyson the maximum allowed means his license could be revoked for good instead of simply being suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Tyson would be able to reapply after a year, and once a year after that, but there is no guarantee he would ever get the license back.
“The license will be gone forever, never to return,” said Joe Rolston, the deputy attorney general prosecuting Tyson. “The only way Mr. Tyson can get it back is to reapply every year and the commission will have to decide at that point.”
Other states would be required by a new federal law to honor Nevada’s revocation, meaning the profession that has made Tyson $140 million during the last two years could be in jeopardy.
“It’s a very important decision and one each commissioner has to look to themselves to make,” commission member Dr. James Nave said. “Suspension is suspension. Revocation is permanent.”
Tyson is expected to personally plead for his boxing career when the commission meets in a packed City Hall council chambers.
“I only ask that this not be a lifetime ban,” he said last week.
The proceeding could take less time than the fight itself, which lasted three rounds, or could drag on for a few hours, depending on how Tyson’s attorneys handle his defense. Commission members limited television coverage to a single pool feed and issued media credentials in an effort to control the meeting.
“I guarantee you it will not be a circus,” commission chairman Dr. Elias Ghanem said. “I will not allow it.”
Holyfield, now touring South Africa, said earlier that a year’s ban from boxing wouldn’t be enough for the bites Tyson inflicted on him in the richest fight in history.
“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.”
Tyson is not legally required to appear, but Rolston said he expected Tyson would show up to try to convince commissioners not to revoke his license.
“I have every reason to believe he probably will be attending,” Rolston said. “Even if he pleads guilty we’ll still have a few questions to ask him. And if he decides to defend himself on the charges, we’ll put him on the stand and he will be subjected to numerous questions.”
Tyson has already admitted biting Holyfield’s ears before being disqualified June 28 during their WBA heavyweight title fight.
The commission basically has two options: Suspend Tyson for up to five years and fine him a legal maximum of $250,000, or revoke his boxing license - a move that allows a maximum fine of $3 million.
“I don’t think a suspension is a viable option because of the difference in the amount of money the commission can fine Mr. Tyson,” said Donald Haight, the commission’s legal adviser. “I think most commissioners feel a $250,000 fine is really a mere pittance when you’re looking at a $30 million purse.”
The five commissioners have been tight-lipped about their intentions, saying they will wait to hear from Tyson and his attorneys before deciding what to do.
Nave, one of the most influential commissioners along with Ghanem, said there has been no pressure from Tyson’s camp or promoter Don King. But the veterinarian said everyone who brings an animal into his office wants to know what he will do.
“Every client that walks in wants to talk about it,” Nave said. “I tell them we’ve got a job ahead, and what’s wrong with your dog?”
It will be the second time in five years that the 31-year-old Tyson finds his future in the hands of a group of people who will decide his fate.
Unlike February 1992, when he was convicted of raping Desiree Washington, however, Tyson will not do time this time. He served three years in an Indiana prison and is still on probation.
That prison sentence, though, seems to have affected his boxing abilities, and an indefinite license revocation could erode those skills further at an age when heavyweight boxers generally begin to decline.
“I don’t think you will see the same Tyson again,” veteran trainer Angelo Dundee said. “His skills will definitely erode. They already eroded during his time in prison.”
It is possible Tyson could still fight overseas while trying to get his license back, but because he’s on probation he may not get permission to leave the country.
Fighting overseas might also be seen by the boxing commissioners as thumbing his nose at the penalty.
Public opinion, meanwhile, is running against Tyson.
The athletic commission said that by a 3-1 margin a heavy flow of letters and faxes were calling for stiff penalties for the former champion.
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