Tyson has to fight his way out of debt with IRS looking on

AP , LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 23

Mike Tyson will have to fight -- and fight often -- to get out of debt, despite the prospect of a US$14 million payment from Don King to settle his claims against the promoter.

Tyson will drop his US$100 million suit against King in exchange for the payment, but the former heavyweight champion will see none of the money. It will go toward paying about US$38.4 million Tyson owes to various creditors, the Internal Revenue Service and his ex-wife, Monica.

To pay off the rest, Tyson's attorneys have laid out a plan in federal bankruptcy court in New York City under which Tyson will fight seven times over the next three years. The plan is ambitious, if only because Tyson has fought only twice in the last three years for a total of about eight rounds.

The first of those fights will be formally announced Tuesday at a news conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Tyson will take on unheralded Briton Danny Williams on July 30 at Freedom Hall in a bout that will earn him several million dollars to help satisfy his debts.

Assuming Tyson, who will be fighting for the first time in 17 months, beats the British journeyman, he could fight again as soon as the fall. That could be against the likes of light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver or Lamon Brewster, who holds the lightly regarded WBO heavyweight title.

"He wants to put the past behind him and believes he can be champion again," Tyson's manager, Shelly Finkel said. "And that would be a great story."

The other part of Tyson's story is well-known. The most feared boxer of his time, he spent three years in prison for rape and squandered some US$300 million in purses over the years.

At the age of 38, he's broke and living in a small house in Phoenix, where he's in training. His two homes in Las Vegas are up for sale, with the proceeds already earmarked for the bankruptcy court fund to pay his numerous debts.

The settlement with King is a key part of solving Tyson's financial problems. If the bankruptcy judge approves, King will pay US$8 million up front, with another US$3 million in January 2005 and US$3 million more in January 2006.

Tyson had pinned his financial hopes on winning an even bigger settlement in court on his claims that King stole some US$100 million from him while promoting Tyson after he got out of prison in 1995.

But although Tyson's attorneys were confident in their case, they were concerned about how effective Tyson would be as a witness on his own behalf during a trial and whether King could win a jury over with charm.

For King, the settlement removes one more barrier between him and his former fighter. Since King controls many of the top heavyweights, there's a good possibility he will end up promoting Tyson fights again.

Tyson, who once vowed never to fight for King again, said last week that he wouldn't rule it out.