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Boxing comes to Tahoe, looks to change image

Tim Parsons

Everyone with a vested interest in boxing is hoping nothing weird happens at Caesars Tahoe on July 12.

In the first heavyweight championship since the June 28 “Pay-per-Chew” atrocity, Lennox Lewis will defend his World Boxing Council championship against No. 1-contender Henry Akinwande. It will be the first heavyweight championship held at Lake Tahoe.

Officials at a press conference Thursday were confident the combatants would not revert to anything out of the ordinary.



“The image of the sport is on the line, and it’s vital,” said John Morris, a WBC governor. “The image of the sport is paramount, and it must be observed.”

Rich Rose, the president of Caesars Sports, just wanted a normal boxing match. “As long as it’s decided in the ring, we hope that’s what happens,” he said.



Lewis and Akinwande did nothing to shake the officials’ confidence. Speaking with an English accent, Lewis, who resides in London, was his usual proper self. Akinwande was downright bashful.

“These are two boxers who are fully capable of restoring a great deal of credibility to the sport,” Morris said. “They have ability and dignity. And that’s not taking away anything from Evander Holyfield.”

Boxing has drawn international attention after Mike Tyson was disqualified in the World Boxing Association championship for biting off part of Holyfield’s ear. On Wednesday, Tyson was fined $3 million by the Nevada Athletic Commission and had his boxing license revoked for at least a year.

In February, Lewis was also involved in a bout that put boxing in a negative light. He regained his WBC crown when champion Oliver McCall was disqualified in the fifth round. Referee Mills Lane ended the contest because McCall, apparently suffering a mental breakdown, stood in the middle of the ring crying and refusing to defend himself.

Addressing more then 100 media members from throughout the world, Lewis predicted victory.

“This is a great place and it has a great lake,” he said. “I can’t wait to go into the ring and prove my stuff.”

Lewis is 6 foot 5 and the challenger is 6 foot 7, making it the tallest heavyweight championship matchup in history.

“That’s over 13 feet of warrior,” one spokesman chirped.

While the imposing Akinwande looks the part of a warrior, he didn’t particularly act like someone who beats up people for a living.

At the podium, he had to bend over to reach the microphone. Instead of speaking, he blew into the microphone and then began to giggle.

Afterward, the native of Nigeria who now lives in Tallahassee, Fla., said he felt no animosity toward Lewis.

“I don’t hate anybody,” he said. “I separate my personal life from boxing. After I fight someone I wish them good luck.”

Akinwande works for promoter Don King, the outspoken figure with the outlandish hair. King also is the promoter for Tyson, and, as of Thursday, had not spoken publicly about the biting incident. King reportedly was checked into Caesars, but he was nowhere to be seen at the press conference, and a circus scene was avoided.


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