St. Louis, Louisville vie for possible July 31 bout

Updated: May 19, 2004, 8:20 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- With former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson expected to climb back into the ring for the first time in more than a year, St. Louis apparently has emerged as a top contender for the bout.

Tyson manager Shelly Finkel told that the Gateway City and Louisville, Ky., are the front-runners to host Tyson's next fight, perhaps July 31 against journeyman Kevin McBride.

Tyson, who has a home in Las Vegas and turns 38 next month, last week got a boxing contestant's license from Missouri's regulatory Office of Athletics, its administrator said Wednesday. Tim Lueckenhoff said Tyson's camp did not specify a date for any fight, and McBride has not applied for a similar license in Missouri.

"All that I've heard about the date is what's been reported in the media," Lueckenhoff said.

In Kentucky, officials are keeping Louisville's Freedom Hall unbooked for July 31, pending a decision on the fight, the president of the Kentucky State Fair Board, which runs Freedom Hall, told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

"This is a deal we've been working on for a very long time," Harold Workman told the newspaper.

Tyson and his advisers visited Louisville last summer to meet with the president of Straight-Out Promotions, the Courier-Journal said.

"I'm not familiar with any promoters in St. Louis that would be able to do an event of his level, so I would be guessing that we would be competing against the city itself," Workman said. "That does not worry us in the least bit."

Messages left Wednesday at Finkel's office were not returned.

The fight would be Tyson's first since Feb. 22, 2003, when he knocked out Clifford Etienne in 49 seconds in Memphis, Tenn. Tyson has just three fights under his belt since 2001.

Possible St. Louis venues for a Tyson-McBride bout include the Edward Jones Dome -- home to the NFL's St. Louis Rams -- and the Savvis Center, where the NHL's St. Louis Blues play.

Representatives of both downtown arenas said Wednesday they have not been approached about a possible Tyson fight.

Jeff Rainford, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, said that while he had not heard about a possible Tyson fight in the Gateway City, "we love the idea of big-time events coming here."

But landing Tyson would play second fiddle to a bout involving St. Louis' own Cory Spinks, the undisputed welterweight champion and son of Leon Spinks, the former heavyweight champ.

"Generally we'd be interested in a big-time fight. But I think we're more interested in a fight involving Cory Spinks because he's from St. Louis and we're very proud of him," Rainford said. "We're working with folks interested in getting a Spinks fight."

Missouri boxing licenses expire on June 30 of even-numbered years, meaning that Tyson would have to apply almost immediately for a two-year extension for a bout scheduled after that.

Missouri's Office of Athletics -- part of the state's Department of Economic Development -- regulates professional boxing, wrestling and martial arts statewide.

As part of Tyson's application, sent to Lueckenhoff's office by express mail, Tyson acknowledged his prior convictions and boxing-related disciplinary action taken against him, Lueckenhoff said.

"He answered those questions, we verified that he's not on suspension by any other state and we issued the license,'' Lueckenhoff said. "Obviously, this is a very interesting situation, but we're treating him how we'd treat everybody."

Tyson's application is not public record, Lueckenhoff said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press