Below The Belt

Boxer Mike Tyson threatens members of the media after a brawl broke out on stage during a press conference announcing an upcoming April 6 fight between heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and Tyson in this Jan. 22, 2002 photo, in New York.
The sport of boxing is taking it on the chin, says special contributor Lloyd Garver in his latest commentary.

Boxing took two big blows to the heart this past week. First, the Washington, D.C., Boxing and Wrestling Commission granted Mike Tyson a license to fight. Then, Fox aired "Celebrity Boxing." If you're not sure which is the greater travesty, don't worry. They can always settle the matter by having the winner of the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis bout fight Tonya Harding.

Georgia, Texas and Nevada have denied Tyson a license. They were picky. They were bothered by his pesky convictions for rape and road rage assault. They didn't think that someone who bit both of his opponent's ears, who couldn't get through a press conference without brawling and who threatened to eat an opponent's children should be invited to their home.

I can't help wondering one thing: In the eyes of the Washington Commission, what would Mike Tyson have to do to disqualify himself from getting a license? What if he wiped out a whole town? Would that do it? Does he need to eat a few more ears before the commission would say "no?" One of the startling things is that Mike Tyson passed the psychiatric tests that the commission insisted he take. I heard a rumor that Hannibal Lechter aced the same exams.

The big argument for having the fight in Washington is that, "It's probably going to happen somewhere, so why shouldn't we make the money from the fight instead of some other place?" First of all, the argument that "somebody else is going to do something wrong, so we might as well," is not particularly convincing. Secondly, Washington D.C., is not "some other place." It is our nation's capital, a symbol of our country. Many Americans have been feeling patriotic lately. We've had a newfound pride in America. Do we really want to say to the world that, "we know he's not a good guy, but if he fights in Washington, it will bring millions of dollars to the city?" That's going to do a lot for our image, especially in places that already think we worship the dollar.

I have the feeling that money probably had a little something to do with the creation of "Celebrity Boxing," too. In the main event, former skater/mugger Tonya Harding, beat former Clinton accuser/Penthouse poser Paula Jones. I know that they didn't do it for publicity, because both of them have stated that all they wanted was to go back to their private lives. In the preliminary bouts, "The Partridge Family's" Danny Bonnaduce defeated "The Brady Bunch's" Barry Williams, and former actor/felon Todd Bridges decisioned former rapper Vanilla Ice. I'm sure it's hard enough to be a former Famous Person, but how humiliating it must be to be on the undercard of the Tonya Harding-Paula Jones fight.

But television is a business. Besides, you could look at "Celebrity Boxing" as just silly fun. It's hard to look at the Tyson fight the same way. Those involved with the fight are hoping that it take place on June 8th in Washington. Coincidentally, about 100,000 Girl Scouts and their parents are expected to be in town for the Girl Scouts 90th Anniversary Sing-along that is scheduled for June 8th on the Mall. It's a lovely image, isn't it: the Girl Scouts and the fight crowd in town at the same time? The Scouts have already reserved hotel rooms, but hotels near the arena say they will book fight fans as well. So, it's possible that a room filled with Girl Scouts might be next door to Mike Tyson and his entourage. I hope the girls don't disturb Mike with their giggling and singing. After all, Washington is depending on this man to save the city.

E-mail your questions and comments to Lloyd Garver

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver