posted on Apr, 14 2003 @ 12:05 PM
The Record, Bergen County, NJ - April 13, 2003
Controversial boxer Mike Tyson has been knocked out of a proposed fight at Continental Arena after taking a verbal beating from various New Jersey
politicians on Friday.
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority's decision to back away from a potentially lucrative doubleheader -- which might have featured Tyson
and heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis in separate fights June 21 - -came hours after Senate co-President Richard Codey, D- Essex, released a letter
demanding the state refuse to grant Tyson a boxing license.
"Saddam Hussein is more likely to reform himself than Mike Tyson," wrote Codey, who threatened to introduce a Senate resolution calling for the New
Jersey State Athletic Control Board to reject Tyson's application. "Allowing Mike Tyson to fight here in New Jersey would obliterate our claim as a
state with standards of decency where women should be treated with respect."
Tyson is a convicted rapist who also is infamous for biting off part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a heavyweight championship bout in 1997.
George Zoffinger, the often-outspoken head of the sports authority, said little about the agency's backpedaling.
"I spoke to a number of state administration officials, and we decided that it wasn't the best of times to try something like this," Zoffinger said.
"It's fair to say that a number of state senators and other people whose opinions we value weighed in on the issue. I can see all sides of this thing,
and I'm willing to listen to other people."
The sports authority's decision was hailed by Elizabeth Volz, president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Organization for Women.
"Sports figures are role models to young people, and if Mike Tyson is permitted to come here as a sports star, it says that his behavior is something
to be modeled," Volz said.
Zoffinger said he still hoped to attract the Lewis fight but acknowledged that Gary Shaw of Wayne - who promotes Tyson and Lewis - insists that both
fight on the same night.
Codey's letter was sent to control board Chairman Gerald Gormley.
Codey and Sen. William Gormley, R-Atlantic, were the leading voices of outrage in 1998, the last time Tyson applied for a license in New Jersey. The
Gormleys are brothers, and the chairman can overrule any license application approved by control board Commissioner Larry Hazzard.
Tyson would have had an ally in Hazzard, who issues boxing licenses for the state. Hazzard said Friday - -shortly before Zoffinger's announcement --
that Tyson should be treated like any boxer.
"They send in a license [application]; I send it through the state police for a background check to see if there are any active warrants," he said.
"If there are none, they get a license. I see no reason not to license Mike Tyson at this time."
Zoffinger has aggressively pursued moneymaking opportunities for the Meadowlands Sports Complex, including contests between world- class soccer teams
and a bid to host the Super Bowl in 2008. But Codey said Zoffinger had gone too far this time.
"We don't have to rebuild our state economy on the back of a convicted rapist who continues to degrade women, an out-of-control boxer who has bitten
off part of an opponent's ear, a venomous spitter who cursed before running away the last time he came here for a license," wrote Codey, who reminded
Gerald Gormley that the board's qualifying standards require "good character, honesty, integrity, and responsibility."
Hazzard said those phrases could be considered "if somebody wanted to be a stickler. But if you're going to be a stickler, you should be that way with
everybody, not just Mike Tyson."
The loss of a potential Tyson-Lewis doubleheader at the Meadowlands is a disappointment to Dino Duva of Duva Boxing in Totowa. His company reached an
agreement Friday afternoon to have once-beaten Canadian Kirk Johnson fight Lewis on June 21. The bout now almost surely will not be held at
"Tyson has paid all his dues to society, and it's a shame to imagine not bringing such a historic event to New Jersey," said Duva, who blamed
"politicians trying to hang a campaign on this thing."