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Lewis – yes. Tyson? No.
(Published February 25, 2002)

Law enforcement authorities consider a professionally trained fighter’s hands to be deadly weapons. That’s one of the reasons that boxing – unlike many other professional sports – requires close scrutiny through government regulation.

What happens inside the boxing ring, during a legally sanctioned fight, would be a crime if it occurred outside the ring. Following the rules is critical to boxing’s survival as a sport.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has shown repeatedly that he can’t play by the rules of his sport or of society. Tyson’s televised attempt to assault reigning heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis during a recent press conference to announce plans for a Tyson-Lewis fight is sufficient evidence that Tyson remains out of control.

It wasn’t cute. It was an act of violence. And it showed that Tyson still hasn’t learned to control himself, not even after serving three years in prison on a rape conviction and a year in jail for engaging in road rage.

Tyson’s behavior is worthy of scorn and pity, rather than encouragement and reward.

Yet, local officials are giving serious consideration to allowing the planned Tyson-Lewis bout to be fought in the District. In fact, D.C. boxing commission Chairman Arnold McKnight and Vice Chairman Michael Brown acknowledge that Brown actively pursued Tyson-Lewis promoters to consider holding the title fight here after Nevada, Texas and Colorado rejected Tyson’s licensing requests. Georgia agreed to license Tyson, but the fighter withdrew his application there after the state’s governor angrily called Tyson a "sexual predator."

Mayor Anthony A. Williams says he welcomes a Tyson-Lewis fight for the millions of dollars the event would pump into the local economy.

Despite the potential economic jolt for the city’s weakened hospitality industry, the Greater Washington Board of Trade met the news of a potential Tyson fight in the nation’s capital with uncharacteristically strong opposition to an event that guarantees a major boost to business. The position of the metropolitan area’s strongest business organization is shared by the National Organization for Women and many local religious and political leaders.

Some callers to local radio programs have defended Tyson’s "right" to earn a living in the ring. Mike Tyson has no God-given right to fight – inside the ring or out. Neither does anyone else.

Four years ago, after tolerating years of adolescent after-hours and back-room behavior by then-mayor Marion Barry, D.C. voters were looking for a political leader whose moral compass was pointed in the right direction.

They thought they elected such a leader in Tony Williams.

But Mayor Williams needs to extend his green-eyeshade vision, which continually weighs the monetary cost and benefit of D.C. government actions, to also measure the intangible – but very real – costs of those same actions to society.

Trying to justify issuance of a boxing license to Mike Tyson by citing the violent and criminal behavior of athletes who continue to compete in other professional sports – as Williams has done – only serves to further undermine the "sport" in sportsmanship.

Ban all of the "bad boys" – or girls, as the case may be – from professional sports, including Mike Tyson. Continuing to enable unacceptable behavior by sports stars – by throwing millions of undeserved dollars in their direction – sets a poor example for young people to follow.

More than money is at stake.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator