Smaller venues would make tough sell

Originally Published: June 22, 2004
Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Mike Tyson got a boxing license in New Jersey, but it isn't worth much now.

Tyson, licensed to fight by state athletic commissioner Larry Hazzard on Monday, apparently has no prospective venues now that Gov. James E. McGreevey has vowed to block him from state facilities.

"The only places that would be big enough to hold a fight of this type would be the Meadowlands or Boardwalk Hall (in Atlantic City) and we've made it clear right now that we are not moving forward with any discussion about them," said George Zoffinger, president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the buildings.

Traditionally, big-name boxing matches in New Jersey are sponsored by Atlantic City casinos and staged either in their ballrooms or in the 13,800-seat Boardwalk Hall.

But the biggest casino showrooms seat 5,000 people or less, which is too small to support a Tyson fight.

He isn't the heavyweight champion anymore and, at 38, his skills have eroded badly. Still, his carnival-like appeal can sell seats.

That was what prompted Hazzard to issue the license Monday, but hours later McGreevey responded by saying that Tyson would not be allowed to fight in state-operated buildings.

"The governor doesn't think Mr. Tyson has the temperament to engage in good sportsmanship," McGreevey spokesman Micah Rasmussen said.

In addition, McGreevey has asked the state Athletic Control Board to "review" its decision licensing Tyson, Rasmussen said Tuesday.

"He didn't ask them to rescind it, he didn't ask them to affirm it, he asked them to review it," Rasmussen said.

It wasn't clear Tuesday whether McGreevey has the authority to overrule Hazzard's decision. Chuck Davis, a spokesman for state Attorney General Peter Harvey, said his office had a policy against giving legal advice to the press.

The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault also criticized Hazzard's decision.

"We are deeply distressed that Commissioner Hazzard has decided to issue a boxing license to convicted rapist Mike Tyson," Deborah Sheperd, executive director of NJCASA, said Tuesday. "NJCASA is currently engaged in a public education campaign to enlist men in becoming part of the solution to end sexual violence against women."

Hazzard stood by the decision Tuesday, saying Tyson _ having served a prison term for rape _ deserved a chance.

"The man comes to me pleading with me to give him a chance to feed his family. He said he's broke, he doesn't have any money, he doesn't even have any stable living quarters. A man like that, who's done so much for the sport of boxing in New Jersey, in many ways, the state of New Jersey owes him as far as boxing is concerned," Hazzard said.

According to Zoffinger, Tyson wanted to book a fight at the Meadowlands.

"We indicated there are far greater issues with regard to a Tyson fight than just boxing and Mike Tyson. That's our position. He can have a license. But he's not going to do it at the Meadowlands and he's not going to do it at Boardwalk Hall," Zoffinger said.

Tyson was "a bit disappointed" by the turn of events, according to manager Shelly Finkel.

"We shall see what happens," Finkel said. "At this point, it's not a pressing issue. We're not looking to fight there anytime soon."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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