Mike Tyson and his handlers have lodged a formal protest over the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s decision to make Mitch Halpern the referee for Saturday night’s World Boxing Assn. heavyweight title match between challenger Tyson and champion Evander Holyfield.
Richie Giachetti, Tyson’s trainer, has gone so far as to hint that his side might pull out of the fight at the MGM Grand Garden if the protest is not upheld.
Marc Ratner, executive director of the commission, has scheduled an emergency meeting after today’s 4 p.m. weigh-in, to try to resolve the issue.
Asked if he thought the protest would be upheld, Giachetti said, “If they want the fight to go on.”
Was Giachetti saying it wouldn’t go on with Halpern?
“I don’t know.”
What about the $30-million payday for Tyson?
“I don’t care.”
Giachetti said Tyson’s unhappiness with Halpern goes back to Halpern’s performance in Tyson’s first match against Holyfield last November. Tyson believes Halpern allowed Holyfield to hold excessively and head butt. Tyson, who lost on an 11th-round TKO in one of the great upsets in boxing history, seemed to be badly hurt by a head butt, but to many observers it appeared he caused that collision of heads.
Ratner refused to respond to Giachetti’s veiled threat.
Heavyweight George Foreman once protested the decision to make Mills Lane the referee for Foreman’s fight against Tommy Morrison.
That protest was denied and the fight went on.
It began in a hotel ballroom with a Drew “Bundini” Brown wannabe, clothed in camouflage gear, circulating through the crowd like a town crier, ranting and raving about his fighter, Tyson.
It ended in a nearby tent with the melodious sounds of a gospel chorus singing praises on behalf of Holyfield.
In between, there were two women talking trash, a memorial to Betty Shabazz and a plea to the baseball Hall of Fame to admit Pete Rose.
Just another afternoon with Oprah?
Nope, just another Don King news conference.
This one was held Wednesday at the MGM Grand Hotel to hype Saturday’s rematch.
Tyson and Holyfield are well beyond the stage in their careers where they toss insults or punches across a podium. Tyson continues to show the quiet resolve he has demonstrated since Holyfield shocked him and the boxing world. And Holyfield continues to wear his religion on his broad sleeve and present a face of humility to the media.
So it was left to the clowns in this circus to provide the entertainment. And they didn’t disappoint.
Bundini made a career out of being Muhammad Ali’s cheerleader, motivator and instigator, and Steve Fitch, who goes by the name Crocodile, is trying to fill the same role for Tyson.
“You know we coming!” he yelled at the Holyfield camp. “We bringing heat. Mike ain’t dead.”
Discarding his shtick for a minute, Fitch, who has the words “Team Tyson Rules” tattooed on the inside of his left forearm, spoke in almost reverential tones about Brown.
“He was my mentor,” Fitch said. “When Ali thought he didn’t have no more, Bundini was able to reach down and pull more out of him. That’s what I try to do with Mike.”
Although Tyson refuses to offer excuses for his stunning loss to Holyfield, Fitch is candid about what happened that night.
“We underestimated Holyfield,” Fitch said. “We thought he had heart problems. We took him took lightly. It was a wake-up call for us.”
Fitch had trouble lighting any emotional sparks during the news conference.
“I’m not emotional,” Tyson told the crowd. “I’m professional. I don’t get involved emotionally.”
The only emotion was shown by female boxers Christy Martin and Andrea DeShong, who will fight on the undercard.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen you dress respectable like a woman,” Martin told DeShong.
“There may be only one lady here,” DeShong said, “but they’ll be pulling her off the mat Saturday night.”
King, of all people, tried to take the high ground. The promoter agonized over the death Monday of Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X, who died of burns suffered in a fire allegedly set by her grandson. He promised a 10-bell count Saturday night in memory of Shabazz and Ennis Cosby, the slain son of comedian Bill Cosby.
King also said that now that he has been inducted into boxing’s Hall of Fame, it is time to induct Rose, baseball’s career hit leader, into his sport’s hall. Rose has been kept out because of his alleged gambling on baseball.
“He is Mr. Baseball,” King said. “He is not in because of someone’s view through rose-colored glasses of what life should be.”
Don King, crusader for justice. That may be a bigger upset than the one Holyfield pulled off on Tyson.