01/30/2002 12:00AM

Tyson is denied a boxing license; Vegas loses big fight


LAS VEGAS - The Nevada Athletic Commission foiled a hugely lucrative Las Vegas fight between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, Tuesday, voting 4-1 to deny Tyson a state boxing license.

After a 2 1/2-hour hearing, Robert Faiss, an attorney for Tyson, asked for a recess when it became clear a majority of the five commissioners was going to vote against his client. Tyson, the 35-year-old former world champion, was taken out a back door to a waiting limousine while Faiss returned to the hearing room and asked that Tyson's application be withdrawn.

Commissioner John R. Bailey, an attorney who used to work with Faiss, made a motion to dismiss, but the room was ominously quiet as no one seconded it. Dr. Tony Alamo then made a motion to reject Tyson's license application.

The commission then dealt the knockout punch, as Dr. Flip Homansky joined Bailey, Alamo, and Ayoub in voting against Tyson. Luther Mack, the panel's chairman, voted for licensing, though he later explained that he was hoping a deal could be struck to grant a conditional license.

The commissioners repeatedly said they cared for Tyson as a human being and actually did a better job than his own handlers in pointing out his humanitarian work (the defense showed a clip from "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" to show what a nice guy Tyson is, while Bailey pointed out that 10 Nevada youths are going to college thanks to Tyson).

"Boxing will be fine when Mike Tyson leaves boxing," Alamo said. "The question is, will Mike Tyson be fine when boxing leaves him?"

"We are all losers here," said a sad Homansky.

Faiss opened the hearing by informing the commission that they couldn't violate Tyson's constitutional rights by asking him about potential rape charges or his recent trip to Cuba. He also stated that the reason they were before the commission was because of a Jan. 22 melee at a press conference in New York. Homansky and Ayoub, however, said the commission had many more concerns regarding Tyson's behavior besides that incident.

Regardless, Faiss went into a 30-minute presentation defending Tyson's actions in New York, saying it was a "staged face-off gone wrong" and that Tyson was provoked by a media member in the audience. The commission was more concerned with Tyson's tirade afterward, including Tyson's repeated use of vulgarity and grabbing his crotch.

Bailey grilled Tyson about his efforts to get psychological help and his failure to follow through on his treatment and medication. Tyson said he was cleared by doctors, but he was sketchy on details of his treatment.

Ultimately, Bailey said, "You have tarnished and diminished the sport. I do not believe you have met the burden of proof for a boxing license."

Tyson was seeking a license for an announced April 6 title fight against Lewis at the MGM Grand. It was expected to be the richest bout in history, with each fighter earning more than $20 million and Las Vegas getting a $100 million boost to its economy. Promoters are now looking for another venue, either in Detroit, New York, or overseas.

But Tyson's very next fight could be against the State of Nevada as two separate rape charges could be issued as early as Friday, according to Wednesday's Las Vegas Review-Journal. The two incidents allegedly took place in September and November at Tyson's Las Vegas home.