RUMBLE ON THE RIVER 

RUMBLE ON THE RIVER

It’s official. On June 8th, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson will fight in Memphis at The Pyramid. In a press conference late Tuesday morning, Mayor Willie Herenton said, “The world will be looking at Memphis. Let us show the world that Memphis is a good place to come for wholesome entertainment.” Herenton also said that he didn’t “want to be nickel-and-dimed about the amount the city will invest on this.” To that, Pyramid manager Alan Freeman added that he and fight officials had negotiated “a fair rental rate” for the venue but would not say what the amount was. Freeman also said that as of Tuesday morning The Pyramid still did not have a signed contract for the event, pending completion of “a few loose ends.” The Pyramid’s website, he said, has been getting about 70,000 hits an hour. Sources in Tunica, meanwhile, told the Flyer that the casino center’s role was hammered out Monday in a three-hour meeting at Horseshoe Casino. The source said Lewis representative Gary Shaw had been negotiating “with one person and one person only in Memphis and that was Mayor Herenton.” The promoters said the fight will be broadcast n 10 languages and should be the largest-grossing bout ever. The casinos want the fight to be headlined “Memphis/Tunica,” and the fighters would each hold one public workout in Tunica. The fighters on the undercard would also work out in Tunica. Promoters are talking about two separate weigh-ins, playing on the theme that “they’re so bad they can’t weigh in together,” the source said. Lewis has been talking to Sam’s Town casino about a headquarters, while Tyson’s headquarters is up in the air. Gold Strike casino showed interest but did not make a commitment, sources said. Fitzgerald’s casino has also shown interest in Tyson. The casinos also made a bid for an expected onslaught of 300-1,500 media representatives. Tunica County officials agreed to furnish security outside the casinos as needed. The fight announcement came early Monday evening after several weeks of courting and speculation, during which a number of cities were named as possible hosts. In the past week, Washington, D.C. emerged as the favored site. Late last week it looked as if Memphis might be out entirely when First Tennessee Bank, which had issued a letter of credit for the financing, backed out of the deal. It was widely reported that First Tennessee vacated due to moral issues related to Mike Tyson’s criminal background and recent public behavior. However, a First Tennessee representative tells the Flyer that the bank never said anything of the sort. “We don’t comment on any of our customers or potential customers. We never said that there was a moral reason for us not participating,” says Walter Dawson, corporate communications specialist for First Tennessee. Other sources told the Flyer that First Tennessee backed out after board members expressed discomfort with Tyson’s criminal history. In the past, the boxer has been convicted of rape and assault. In the press conference Tuesday, Herenton addressed complaints that hosting the fight would reflect badly on Memphis, considering Tyson’s background. “People who want to say that need to read the Bible,” said Herenton. “We should not judge. God judges all of us. It is not in my job description to regulate the morality lf sports figures here.” Herenton also called First Tennessee “a great corporate citizen,” and said that the bank’s decision to withdraw from the deal was a “corporate decision-- one which I respect.” Greg Lowry, director of sales and marketing for The Pyramid, said on Monday afternoon that representatives from Showtime and HBO toured The Pyramid to determine the best camera angles and media spots. A couple of hours later, the fight was made official. Joe Cooper, who has been promoting the fight in Memphis, said that he received calls from rapper Snoop Dogg and actor Jack Nicholson, wanting to purchase tickets for the event, and that boxing great Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie have already accepted an invitation to sit ringside. John Oros, senior vice president of convention development for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimated that 12,000 to 15,000 out-of-towners will fill Memphis and Tunica’s combined 27,000 rooms and that a minimum of $10 million will be spent by visitors. Herenton said a task force including police, airport officials, MATA officials, the CVB, The Pyramid, and government representatives will start working on security and logistics with the goal of providing “a wholesome experience for all of our visitors from around the globe.”

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