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Smaller venues would make tough sell

6/24/2004

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."