The Nevada State Athletic Commission today voted to release Mike Tyson's $8.7 million purse from last Saturday's one-round bout with Orlin Norris, but made it clear the heavyweight boxer might have worn out his welcome in Las Vegas.
"Our advice to you is to pack up Mike Tyson's bags and take his act on the road," Commissioner Lorenzo Fertitta told Tyson's attorney, Jim Jimmerson, and his promoter, Dan Goossen. "I'm not so sure we need him in the state of Nevada any more."
When asked his feelings if Tyson never were to fight in Nevada again, Fertitta responded, "It would not upset me whatsoever."
Tyson, who was not required to attend, could have been fined or suspended by the commission, which issued its decision after a 30-minute hearing.
Tyson punched Norris after the bell during their fight at the MGM Grand Garden. Norris was knocked down and dislocated his kneecap when he crumbled to the canvas.
Referee Richard Steele, deeming the late left hook unintentional, deducted two points from Tyson's score. Norris's knee injury, however, prevented the fight from continuing and it was ruled a no contest.
The commission could have kept Tyson's purse or changed the no contest to a disqualification, but any punishment handed down would have set a precedent. Never before had the commission scheduled a hearing for such an infraction. Norris received his purse of $201,000 the night of the fight.
"We'd like to send a message--that anybody who comes to Nevada has to play by the rules," chairman Elias Ghanem said. "We're not prepared to have any hoodlums come to fight in our state."
Goossen informed the commission he already had plans for Tyson to fight elsewhere, even abroad. Dec. 11 is the working date for an undetermined opponent, and a proposed Feb. 26 bout against Shannon Briggs at Madison Square Garden still appears to be on.
"I can certainly see Mr. Fertitta's point," Goossen said. "Whether I agree with it or not, I have to take notice."
It was the latest in a series of problems with Tyson that the commission has had to deal with in the past two years. He was suspended indefinitely and fined $3 million for twice biting Evander Holyfield's ears in a June 1997 bout at the MGM.
Before he could be re-licensed last year, the commission ordered Tyson to undergo a battery of psychological tests and questioned him on pending charges in Maryland that he assaulted two motorists after a fender-bender.
It was later found that Tyson lied to the commission during those reinstatement hearings, assuring all five members he had not assaulted those men. Tyson eventually served 3 1/2 months in the Montgomery County Detention Center.
In his first fight after regaining his license, Tyson admitted to trying to break Frans Botha's arm during a clinch at the end of the first round. He also told the Los Angeles Times the week before the Norris bout that he would bite an opponent again if provoked.
"As far as getting my support, that might be the toughest fight of Mr. Tyson's career," Fertitta said. "I look at all of these incidents and see a pattern, that he can't control himself under the bright lights in the ring.
"What he did to Holyfield was a gross foul. Then he tried to snap Botha's arm. Maybe [the late punch] was a small incident in relation to the other ones, but there's a pattern here."
Fertitta said one reason the commission didn't fine Tyson was that it is difficult to prove intent to injure, especially on such a common boxing occurrence as a late punch. Felix Trinidad, for example, twice hit Oscar De La Hoya after the bell without penalty during their welterweight title fight here in September.
Tyson contended that he didn't hear the bell, although it clanged five times and Steele had stepped in to separate the fighters before the punch was thrown.
"People will get hit after the bell," Fertitta said. "It's just like a quarterback getting hit late after he throws a pass. But one of the hardest things to do is determine whether or not there is intent."
Tyson's Nevada boxing license will expire Dec. 31. If he were to reapply, the commission would insist he appear before them to answer questions regarding his past. According to Marc Ratner, executive director of the commission, forcing a fighter to appear before a license renewal is rare.
"I am concerned with Mike Tyson's ability to fight and follow the rules in the heat of battle," Commissioner Glenn Carano said. "Mr. Tyson needs to show he can act in an appropriate matter inside the ring. I'm concerned with how he's going to carry out the rest of his career."
CAPTION: Referee Richard Steele, left, moves in to stop Mike Tyson, whose late punch had driven Orlin Norris to the canvas in first round of their fight.