Mike Tyson got his boxing license back Monday, 15 months after he lost it for biting Evander Holyfield's ears during a title fight.
Tyson told the Nevada Athletic Commission that he had suffered long enough and needs to box to make a living.
Chairman Elias Ghanem said the fighter had made many mistakes but deserved another chance. The commission voted 4-1 to restore the license, with the lone holdout commissioner James Nave.
"I want to warn you, from my view, this will be your last chance," Ghanem said. "You will either conduct yourself in accordance with our rules and regulations, or you will probably never fight again in Nevada."
Tyson was near tears as his supporters hugged him and patted on his back after the decision was announced.
"I'm just happy I won," he said. "I'm undecided when I'll fight again. I don't know whether I'm prepared to fight. I've been going through a lot of things."
His handlers have said the former heavyweight champ could be back in the ring as soon as December to fight for the riches he has frittered away. A loss would have put him out of the sport for at least another year.
"Don't be looking for him to be fighting these champions," said Magic Johnson, a supporter who testified before the commission. "He's been inactive a long time. We're going to bring him along very, very slowly."
Joining Johnson was Muhammad Ali, who told the commission that despite all of Tyson's problems he should be allowed to box again.
"There are only a few punishments worse than being denied a right to make a living," Ali said in a statement read by his wife, Lonnie, who sat next to the ailing boxing great. Ali was banned from the sport for 3 ½ years for refusing military induction.
In one pointed exchange with Nave, Tyson said he was humiliated by the hearing and the psychological tests the commission told him to undergo last month.
"Please don't torture me any longer, sir," Tyson said. "I made a mistake. Other fighters have made more."/b>
"I'm just a human being trying to live my life."
With a couple of hundred people watching in the commissioners' hearing room, Tyson said he had no one to blame but himself for biting Holyfield, but he once again said he was reacting to what he thought were intentional head-butts from the champion.
Tyson also denied accusations that he punched and kicked two men following a fender-bender in Maryland in August. The commission said that the case, set for trial in December, would be important to its decision on whether to give the boxer back the license it revoked when he bit Holyfield on June 28, 1997.
"I'm not going to kill anybody. I'm not a mass murderer," Tyson told the commissioners when asked about his ability to control his temper.
His wife, Monica, who was in the car with Tyson, told the commission she never saw her husband hit anybody following the accident.
Tyson's hearing came one month after he was told to undergo the psychological tests to help the officials make their decision.
The doctors who examined Tyson tried to reassure the commissioners that the fighter most likely won't snap again in the ring, a conclusion they outlined in their report, released last week.
Dr. Ronald Schouten, one of five doctors who examined Tyson at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the commissioners today that the boxer's low self-esteem was a "chronic situation" but that he could be helped through weekly treatment.
He said Tyson was so upset by losing his license that he most likely would not do anything to jeopardize it in the future.
"The impact of losing his license has been devastating," Schouten said. "He wants his job back."
Dr. Thomas Deters told the commissioners that allowing Tyson to fight again would have "therapeutic value."
At one point, Ghanem told the boxer that he shouldn't feel he's being picked on.
"Forgive me for thinking that. I love you all," Tyson responded, drawing laughter from the audience.
Tyson lawyer James Jimmerson opened the hearing by reminding the commissioners that his client has done everything asked of him and urging them to meet him halfway. He said Tyson approached the hearing with a sense of "honesty, fairness and doing the right thing."
Tyson, wearing a black sports coat and white dress shirt, sat next to his wife at a table in front of the commissioners. He stared at the doctors intently as they testified and occasionally leaned over to whisper to his wife, a physician.
Tyson's advisers pushed for the earliest possible hearing so that Tyson could fight before the end of the year, probably Dec. 5 at the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas.
The boxer owes the Internal Revenue Service $13 million despite having made more than $100 million in purses since his release from prison in 1995.
But there are more potential problems ahead for the boxer. He is still on probation for his rape conviction, and could be snt back to prison if convicted on the assault charges from the car accident.
"The bigger problem is he'll go to jail," Tyson spokesman Peter Seligman said. "Then none of this matters."
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved