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    A Times Editorial

    Knockout victory in Tyson ban

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 3, 2002

    Perhaps it is a fleeting phenomenon, but ethical judgment showed up in an unlikely place. Two of the more disreputable institutions in America -- professional boxing and the Las Vegas gambling industry -- actually chose principle over money when the Nevada State Athletic Commission denied Mike Tyson a license to fight heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. The April bout would have been worth $100-million or more to the depressed Las Vegas economy, which is why many observers thought the license would be automatic.

    Yes, Tyson is an erratic thug who would have been run out of any legitimate sport years ago. But in boxing, his brutish antics sold tickets, and that is all that counted. The Nevada commission revoked Tyson's license in 1997 after the fighter bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear during a bout. Then the commission restored the license in 1998 for a Las Vegas fight in which Tyson tried to break his opponent's arm. In a press conference to promote the upcoming Lewis fight, Tyson went berserk, throwing punches, spewing obscenities and biting a chunk out of Lewis' thigh.

    That final display gave the boxing commission a reason to reject Tyson, though it could have pointed to any number of altercations Tyson has had both inside and outside the ring. A convicted rapist, Tyson could be charged with two more rapes that the Las Vegas police are investigating. Of course, Tyson could get a license elsewhere and the bout could still go on. If that happens, it will undoubtedly bring shame to the sport and the locale. For now, we should enjoy the surprise knockout victory that decency scored over greed.

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