Published: August 20, 2004
Larry Hazzard, who has headed the New Jersey State Athletic Control
Board for nearly 20 years, remains bitter that outgoing Gov. James E.
McGreevey, in effect, overruled his decision to license Mike Tyson to
box in the state.
In an exclusive interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Hazzard
vehemently renewed his objections to what he termed “insulting”
treatment by the governor not only toward Tyson, but to Hazzard’s right
to regulate boxing in New Jersey. A longtime member of the NAACP,
Hazzard, who is African-American, also said that a group of black
activists, including Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, daughter of former
heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, “stand ready to challenge the
mistreatment of Mike Tyson and the usurping of my authority.” He added
that if all professional athletes were held to the same higher standard
of behavior apparently being applied to Tyson, a two-time former
heavyweight champion, New Jersey Nets star Jason Kidd would have to be
barred from playing home games in Continental Airlines Arena and
visiting players such as Kobe Bryant might also be prevented from
plying their trade in the state.
“If you are going to disallow Mike Tyson from appearing in a
state-owned facility because of an assault against a woman that
occurred 12 or 13 years ago (Tyson was convicted of rape in 1992 and
served three-plus years), are you going to apply the same criteria to
NBA and NFL athletes?” Hazzard said. “What do you do with Jason Kidd,
who was charged with beating his wife? What about Kobe Bryant?
“There’s something about Mike Tyson that certain politicians in New
Jersey find distasteful, and it is expedient for them to single him
out. But you cannot have one standard for Mike Tyson and another for
“I was insulted when the governor did what he did. I felt it was
terribly unfair to Mike Tyson, and to me. I am the licensing agent for
boxers in New Jersey and have been since 1985. My actions in the
performance of my duties had never been questioned by any of the four
previous governors to serve since my appointment.
“Mike Tyson had expressed to me that he was a changed individual and
that he would not misbehave. There is no reason not to take him at his
word. When he lost to Lennox Lewis, you could not have found a fighter
who was more gracious in defeat. And when he knocked out Clifford
Etienne, you could not have found a more sportsmanlike winner.”
Gov. McGreevey, who announced that “I am a gay American” on Aug. 12
and that he would leave office on Nov. 15, took action within hours of
Hazzard’s June 21 issuance of a license to Tyson. McGreevey mandated
that Tyson be banned from all state-owned venues, including Continental
Airlines Arena in East Rutherford and Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Since those are the only facilities large enough in New Jersey to
accommodate a Tyson bout, the governor’s edict is tantamount to the
rejection of his license application.
Micah Rasmussen, a spokesman for Gov. McGreevey who had said at the
time that “the governor doesn’t think Mr. Tyson has the temperament to
engage in sportsmanship,” referred any questions about Tyson to state
Sen. Richard Cody, who will take over as acting governor on Nov. 15.
Tyson was unavailable for comment, but at the time he was keenly disappointed by Gov. McGreevey’s hardline stance against him.
“Without Larry Hazzard stepping forward I wouldn’t have been all
jacked up (to again fight in New Jersey, where he has not appeared
since a July 21, 1989, bout against Carl `The Truth’ Williams),” Tyson
said at the time. “I don’t understand. I paid all my dues. I’ve done
everything they’ve asked me to do. I stayed out of trouble for a long
period of time. And still they don’t want to allow me to make a living.
Where are you going to make a living if you can’t go to the casinos?”
Tyson subsequently fought on July 30 in Louisville, Ky., and was
upset on a fourth-round knockout by England’s Danny Williams. That
defeat has clouded Tyson’s boxing future, as has the injury to his left
knee that he incurred in the first round.
Asked for the present status of Tyson in regard to his being able to
fight in New Jersey, Hazzard said, “He has a license. The present
governor has stated his position, and that position, I would imagine,
is still the status quo.
“It would be up to Mike Tyson and Shelly Finkel (Tyson’s adviser) to
exercise any legal remedies available to them in terms of Tyson coming
here before the governor leaves office. The nature of Tyson’s injury
probably means he would not be able to go before Nov. 15 in any case.”
Finkel said that Tyson almost certainly will fight again, and that
the plan is to seek redress through the courts if he again is denied
access to state-owned facilities in New Jersey.
“Mike wants to go back to Jersey,” Finkel said. “I started this
whole thing some months ago by sending Gov. McGreevey a letter. He
responded by informing us to go through the licensing process, which we
did. Then he issued that ridiculous edict which, to me, was like a slap
to Larry Hazzard’s face. It was like someone being given a driver’s
license, then being told he can’t drive on state roads.
“If this matter is not resolved in a satisfactory manner, we will do
what we have to do to ensure that Mike’s rights are upheld. And this
time, he will prevail.”
Hazzard said he will speak his mind, regardless of the consequences.
“I don’t care if the present governor opposes me because the
governor is not God,” Hazzard said. “This is about doing what’s right.
If I’m wrong, then the Constitution of the United States is wrong.”