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Thursday, June 6, 2002
Updated: June 7, 1:55 PM ET
No shortage of conspiracy theories for this fight

By Wally Matthews
Special to

MEMPHIS -- Here's why Lennox Lewis has absolutely no chance to beat Mike Tyson Saturday night:
Jose Sulaiman
WBC president Jose Sulaiman has power, but should that worry these fighters?

His promoter, Gary Shaw, is leaving Main Events after the fight to form an unholy alliance with Shelly Finkel, his longtime friend who also happens to be Tyson's manager.

It was Shaw who was entrusted by Lewis with the responsibility of representing his interests in negotiating such crucial decisions as the appointing of the referee and the judges.

It was Shaw who negotiated Lewis' contract, which includes an immediate rematch clause for Lewis should Tyson win, and a one-fight-removed rematch clause for Tyson should Lewis win.

In effect, Lewis trusted Shaw to protect his interests in all the areas in which Lewis will be unable to protect himself.

Now, he can't be sure whether Shaw was protecting his interests or those of his future partner, Finkel, and his future fighter, Tyson.

Is this any way for a boxer to go into a fight as pressure-filled and stressful as the one that faces Lewis three days from now?

Obviously not. In fact, word is that a couple days ago, when Lewis learned that his promoter has been sleeping with the enemy, he came as close as Tyson's haircut to walking out on the fight and his $20-million paycheck.

Just to add some fuel to that fire, the odds favoring Lewis have dropped to 9-5 and a few of the books on the Vegas Strip expect Tyson to be the favorite by Friday night.

Convinced? Now, read on.

Here is why Mike Tyson has absolutely no chance to beat Lennox Lewis Saturday night:

He is being sued by the president of the WBC, Jose Sulaiman, for injuries suffered in the brawl that broke out between Tyson and Lewis on the stage of New York's Hudson Theater on Jan. 22.

The 71-year-old Sulaiman was thrown over a table and knocked unconscious in the melee.

At Tuesday's news conference, Sulaiman was wheeled into the room in a wheelchair and hobbled to the podium on a cane. He looked like the kind of pitiful figure that gets a lot of sympathy from juries.

But at this point, losing money to Jose Sulaiman in a courtroom should be the least of Tyson's worries.

In his official capacity as El Presidente of the Mexico City-based WBC, Sulaiman has final say on the appointment of officials.

For the record, they are Bob Logist of Belgium, Anek Hongtongkam of Thailand and Alfred Bukwana of South Africa.

And in his address to the media, Sulaiman sent out what one member of the Lewis camp interpreted as clear signals to his judges.
He was telling his judges, 'Tyson's time is over. Lewis' time is now.' Believe me, the judges hear that stuff and they listen, if they still want to work for the WBC. If I was Tyson, I'd be furious about this.
Lewis camp member on Jose Sulaiman

"Mike Tyson was the greatest fighter of his era,'' Sulaiman said. "And Lennox Lewis is the greatest fighter of the current era.''

"Those were typical Sulaiman code phrases,'' the Lewis camp member said. "He was telling his judges, 'Tyson's time is over. Lewis' time is now.' Believe me, the judges hear that stuff and they listen, if they still want to work for the WBC. If I was Tyson, I'd be furious about this.''

To those interested in deciphering code, Sulaiman also repeatedly referred to Lewis as "our champion.''

Doesn't bode well for a fair shake for Tyson, does it?.

Choose your rumor. Number 1 or No. 2? Clearly, the fix is in, but for whom?

Both rumors, of course, contain an element of truth.

Shaw is leaving Main Events, which promotes Lewis, after this fight, and the talk is he will form his own promotional company. Conceivably, one of the managers he will do business with is Finkel, since they've been close friends for more than 15 years.

And if Tyson were to win, that would make him one of the first clients of Gary Shaw Enterprises, or whatever name he chooses to put on his shingle.

In a business as rule-deprived and rough-edged as boxing, why wouldn't Shaw want to dish out some advance help to a potential client?

Shaw, to his credit, refused to deny the rumor of his departure from Main Events. "That's not for discussion at this time,'' he said. "In this fight, I am 100 percent for Lennox Lewis.''

And even his one denial left plenty of wiggleroom: "I'm not going into business with Shelly Finkel.'' Notice he did not say, "I'm not doing business with Shelly Finkel.'' Or Mike Tyson, for that matter.

As for rumor No. 2, the Jose Sulaiman lawsuit vs. Mike Tyson is fact.

And while both camps ostensibly agreed to all three judges and referee Eddie Cotton, the reality is that Sulaiman exerts way too much influence over the performance of his officials and their future work in WBC fights.

If you don't think so, ask Joe Cortez. With the retirement of Mills Lane and the death of Mitch Halpern, Cortez is probably the best referee in the world.

And yet, he had no chance to work boxing's biggest event in more than a decade because he had the nerve to referee some fights not involving WBC fighters.

That earned Cortez a spot on Sulaiman's blacklist. He learned his lesson and no doubt, so did many others: Do what Jose says or turn in your WBC membership card.

So if you believe in coded messages delivered at press conferences, you could assume that Sulaiman was using the podium as the bow over which to fire another warning shot.

This, of course, is what makes boxing the only sport where the buildup period is often more entertaining than the event. (I exclude the Super Bowl, where the buildup period is always more entertaining than the event).

If you are looking for conspiracy theories, the evidence that the result of Tyson-Lewis has been pre-determined is compelling.

Then again, there is just as much reason to believe that the fight will be fought honestly and the outcome determined by events transpiring in the ring, not outside of it.

There is even the outside chance that, contrary to widespread hysteria about fouling and biting and felonious assault in the guise of sport, the bout will unfold in a completely routine and uneventful fashion.

Just two big, tough guys pummeling holy hell out of each other for 12 rounds, and the crowd demanding a rematch, not refunds.

Of all the possible scenarios for Tyson-Lewis, that is the one that seems just too farfetched to be believed.

Wally Matthews is a veteran boxing writer who has covered boxing for two decades.