Tyson and Lewis fight -- and it's only a news conference

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Tyson's latest outburst angered Lennox Lewis and landed the president of the World Boxing Commission in the hospital briefly with a sore head. Tyson also was left with some explaining to do if he ever hopes to get Lewis into the ring for real.

Tyson himself was cut on his forehead after he came at Lewis and threw a punch that triggered a melee and ended up canceling a news conference Tuesday to promote their heavyweight championship fight April 6.

The fight could be in trouble as well, if Tyson can't convince Nevada boxing authorities next week that all he was trying to do was promote the fight when he went after Lewis.

The timing couldn't have been worse for the former heavyweight champion, who also shouted obscenities and made obscene gestures at a person attending the news conference who suggested he be put in a straitjacket.

Reports that Tyson bit Lewis on the leg could not be confirmed despite phone calls to Lewis' promoter and public relations staff.

Also Tuesday, police in Las Vegas said they found evidence supporting a woman's claim she was raped by Tyson. It will be up to the district attorney's office to decide whether to charge Tyson, who served three years in prison on a 1992 rape conviction.

The news conference began when Tyson, wearing all black, including a leather hat, was introduced first. He strode onstage at the Hudson Theater and then stared in the direction of where Lewis was supposed to appear. When the champion walked out, Tyson quickly walked toward him.

A Lewis bodyguard pushed Tyson and then touched him again. Tyson threw a left hook and a Lewis bodyguard went down, although it wasn't clear if Tyson connected. Lewis threw an overhand right that apparently glanced off the top of Tyson's head and left a cut at his hairline.

The two fighters then rolled briefly on the stage, which suddenly was filled with jumping, falling bodies and flying fists.

Lewis promoter Gary Shaw said he was also hit several times.

WBC president Jose Sulaiman was knocked unconscious in the fight when he hit his head on a table. He was treated at a hospital for a concussion before being released.

''Today's events are but one of the very many instances that have recently taken place that degrade boxing,'' Sulaiman said. ''It would be discriminatory to single out Mike Tyson because many other boxers have behaved similarly at other press conferences.''

After things quieted down, Tyson walked to the front of the stage, and thrust his arms in the air in triumph, then grabbed his crotch.

Someone shouted, ''Put him in a straitjacket.'' Tyson then gestured at the man and cursed him.

Tyson left the theater without answering questions. Instead, he strolled around the block and stopped to sign autographs. A few women kissed him.

Later, he explained his actions in a statement:

''My motivation for approaching Lennox was to stage a face off, which I was told both camps had agreed to,'' Tyson said. ''It was Lennox's bodyguard who panicked and shoved me. Lennox then threw a right. I was here to promote the fight, not be intimidated. I will never be intimidated by anyone, and Lennox will pay in April.''

Lewis' business agent, Adrian Ogun, later read a statement from the champion that said: ''As a result of today's events, I will re-evaluate my options after the relevant boxing commission has ruled.''

The real fight, scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, must be licensed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which fined Tyson $3 million and revoked his license after he bit Evander Holyfield's ears in 1997. Tyson is supposed to appear before the commission next Tuesday to see if it will grant him a new license.

Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada body, said there should have been better security at the New York news conference.

''I thought it was completely regrettable,'' Ratner said. ''They had an incident when it didn't need to happen.''

The fracas recalled the scene when Lewis and Hasim Rahman exchanged words and chest bumps before wrestling on the floor during a TV interview in August. That was 2 1/2 months before Lewis knocked out Rahman in a rematch to regain the heavyweight title.

In Las Vegas, meanwhile, police investigators found evidence they contend backs up a woman's claim she was raped by Tyson, although charges have not been filed against the former heavyweight champion.

''We think there's probable cause to believe a crime occurred,'' said police Lt. Jeff Carlson, commander of the sex crimes unit.

''We're not the attorneys. It's their decision whether to prosecute.''

Results of the four-month investigation were given Tuesday to the office of Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell.

Chermaine Gord, a spokeswoman for Bell, said prosecutors needed more time to review the information before making a decision on whether to file sexual assault charges against Tyson.

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