The biggest boxing bout of Willie "Duke" Herenton's career is one he's not even lacing up for. He amassed a 60-3 record in his seven years as an amateur boxer by learning to take punches and wear his foes down. \nNow the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, he is taking lumps over his decision to host the June 8 heavyweight fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. Herenton sees the event as a chance to lift Memphis' image and give the local economy a boost -- estimated at US$50 million for area businesses by the city visitors' bureau. \nMemphis knows about negative publicity. On April 4, 1968, the city was changed when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr was slain on a motel balcony. Now, with an unpredictable boxer, an unproven host, and the world as witness, Memphis risks watching its reputation be sullied again. \n"I'm praying that we have a great fight and we can pull this off without any embarrassment to anyone," said Herenton, the city's first black mayor, in an interview. "It has a lot of upside, but if we don't execute well, it has downside, too." \nHerenton isn't worried about Tyson, who was originally scheduled to fight Lewis in Las Vegas in April. The fight was called off when the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted not to license Tyson, citing his brawl with Lewis at a news conference. \nWhat does concern him is living up to promises he made to win the right to host the fight, including providing adequate security and transportation routes. \nMemphis has struggled to keep its citizens employed and the city government financially sound as the economy was hobbled by recession. \nUnemployment in the metropolitan area, with 1.14 million people, rose to 5.6 percent in January, the highest since June 1995. About 22 percent more Memphians filed for bankruptcy protection in the 12 months that ended March 31 compared with the prior year. \nNow comes the fight, which has already led to a record US$23.9 million in gross ticket sales at the 19,000-seat Pyramid arena. \nThat translates into US$1.8 million in sales tax revenue alone. \nAn estimated 40,000 people will visit the city, the Memphis Convention and Visitors' Bureau estimates, spending as much as US$50 million on blues music, barbecue and trips to Graceland, the home of rock 'n' roll legend Elvis Presley. \nHerenton uses such figures in his defense. "This fight is bigger than Mike Tyson," he said. "It's about a sporting attraction that's going to yield great economic returns." \nIt's that kind of thinking that led the 10 casino owners of Tunica, Mississippi, 30 miles to the south, to join forces with Herenton, who said he couldn't have pulled off the fight without their support. \nIn a series of March meetings, the casino owners agreed that they would offer up their hotel rooms and grounds for training, and buy up blocks of tickets to the fight. \nAs the general manager of Fitzgeralds Casino, Domenic Mezzetta is less worried about hosting the Tyson camp than about the rising waters of the Mississippi River, which are threatening to flood the lower deck of one of his parking lots. \nFitzgeralds agreed to purchase US$500,000 worth of tickets, to block out 160 rooms for Tyson's camp and various media, and to provide transportation for fight-goers. Mezzetta expects to recoup the costs by selling travel packages from US$1,800 to US$7,000 per couple, but he's focused more on the bout's lasting impact. \n"If the goddess of luck is smiling on us, then we'll make a profit," he said. "But either way, the long-term value of this is immeasurable." \nThe bout has already elevated the exposure of at least one participant in the fight sweepstakes. \nIt was Brian Young, a 36-year-old fight promoter out of Nashville, Tennessee, who literally picked up the phone in early February and put Memphis in the bidding game after Tyson's application was denied in Las Vegas. \nHe first called his friend Tommy Patrick, of Tennessee's Board of Boxing and Racing, who said he thought they could pull off the fight. Then he phoned the top promoters for both camps. \nGary Shaw, representing Lewis as chief operating officer at Main Events, was recovering from prostate surgery at his sister-in-law's house in Los Angeles. \n"She kept coming into the room, saying there's a guy on the phone from Nashville who says he can do the fight," Shaw said. "I told her to take a message." \nBoth camps were "very skeptical," said Young, whose biggest promotion to date was a US$10,000 WBC World Youth title fight on the Nashville Fairgrounds last May that drew 1,500 fans. Young stands to make considerably more on the Lewis-Tyson bout, though he declined to put a number on it. \nThen, Herenton gave his full support and the two started working out a bid centered on the Pyramid, home of the city's fledgling Memphis Grizzlies basketball franchise. Shaw started taking Young's calls, and Lewis announced Memphis as the site during a March 25 press conference. \nTyson's history, which includes a conviction each for rape and misdemeanor assault, gave the fight's supporters more than a few headaches. The biggest threat came from First Tennessee Bank, which denied a line of credit to fund the US$12.5 million site fee because of a "moral issue" with the fight. Unnamed private investors were rounded up instead. \nWhile they're apprehensive about hosting Tyson, whose antics crossed over into the ring when he bit Evander Holyfield's ear during a 1997 fight, Memphians are counting their fortunes at the same time. \n"I heard one of our bellmen say he's going to buy a new house with the tips he makes from the fight," said Dan Bills, weekend manager at the Peabody Hotel. \nThe 130-year-old Peabody, whose twice daily march of mallard ducks between the hotel's lobby fountain and an awaiting elevator still draws the crowds, is bracing for a big haul. The Peabody has sold out fight packages costing as much as US$7,500, including signature fight glasses and a flower bouquet. \nGuitarist Greg Norris is banking on the exposure, even if his city runs the risk of returning to the realm of Disgraceland. His band, the BB King All-Stars, is headlining at BB King's Blues Club on June 8, and playing at the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica the following night. \n"I think Tyson's a thug, but if he can help us, then great," Norris said, before taking the stage at BB's and launching into Eddie Floyd's Knock on Wood.
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ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
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