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BOXING / EARL GUSTKEY : Heavyweight Activity Rides on Morrison

May 30, 1993|EARL GUSTKEY

A year after Mike Tyson stepped into an Indiana prison cell, boxing has what seems to be a talented and aggressive heavyweight champion.

Trouble is, Riddick Bowe, six months after becoming champion, not only hasn't fought a challenger with a pulse, he doesn't even have a major fight planned.

He has easily defeated two has-beens, Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson, in his only appearances as champion. This is the boxing equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys scheduling Northwestern and Cal Lutheran.

But this is professional boxing, a largely ungoverned activity wherein any manager or promoter can manipulate the system to shameless degrees.

Not that the current streak of heavyweight championship inactivity is entirely the fault of Bowe and his manager, Rock Newman. Lennox Lewis, the Brit who many want to see challenge Bowe, recently underwent surgery for a hand injury suffered during his victory over Tony Tucker. He will be sidelined for at least two months.

It boils down to this: If you want a major heavyweight title fight to look forward to, then pray for a Tommy Morrison knockout of George Foreman on June 7.

Seth Abraham of HBO has a vested interest in Bowe's fights. HBO has a six-fight deal with Bowe that could pay the champion $100 million--\o7 if \f7 Bowe wins all six.

"There's a wonderful Yiddish word, \o7 mishegoss, \f7 that best describes what's going on with the heavyweight division," Abraham said.

\o7 "Mishegoss \f7 is a synonym for all kinds of things: A morass, a mess, trouble, headaches, migraines, neuralgia. . . . If you asked an elderly Jewish person how he feels, he might say: 'Oi! . . . \o7 mishegoss\f7 . . . "

"That's exactly how I feel about the heavyweights right now. Nothing is going to happen until three events resolve themselves:

"First, who wins the Foreman-Morrison fight?

"Second, who wins the Holyfield-(Alex) Stewart fight? And if Evander wins, does he look good enough to create interest in a rematch with Bowe?

"Third, the state of Lewis' hand. . . . His doctor tells him he can't spar for two months. Well, that keeps him out of the gym through July.

"My preference is that if Holyfield beats Stewart and looks good, I'd like Bowe to fight Holyfield again. I'm almost certain Lewis won't come back from that hand surgery and fight Bowe immediately.

"Right now, my prognosis is that you'll see Bowe-Holyfield in November, then Lewis and someone else (probably Frank Bruno) at roughly that same time. Then you could maybe point to a Bowe-Lewis fight in early spring, 1994.

"However, I'd also say that if Morrison beats Foreman and looks good doing it, then all of a sudden Bowe-Morrison becomes bigger than Bowe-Lewis. That could change everything."

Foreman said the June 7 Morrison fight probably will be his last, win or lose. The former champion's ABC sitcom, "George," in which he portrays a former fighter counseling troubled youngsters, will go into production in July.

If Foreman wins, there would be one word for it:

\o7 Mishegoss\f7 .

*

The 3-minute 17-second Bowe-Ferguson fiasco last weekend at RFK Stadium triggered memories of the last time they held a heavyweight championship fight in Washington.

Last Saturday's title fight came one day shy of 52 years after Washington's last one--May 23, 1941. Champion Joe Louis was in his prewar "Bum of the Month" campaign. This time the challenger was a 6-foot-4, 237-pound Californian named Buddy Baer.

Some bum.

In the first minute of the fight, Baer drilled Louis with a right hand that sent the champion over the ropes and onto the ring apron. Louis crawled back into the ring and inexorably took over in a fight in which veteran referee Arthur Donovan would become a central figure.

Baer, a 10-1 underdog, was flattened by a Louis punch that most ringsiders said came after the bell ending the sixth round. Baer's cornermen screamed foul, but Donovan ruled the punch was legal.

When irate handlers wouldn't leave the ring for the start of the seventh round, Donovan disqualified Baer.

The next day, Baer's manager, Ancil Hoffman, demanded the Washington boxing commission overturn the verdict and award Baer the championship.

But the result was upheld.

The fight, held in old Griffith Stadium, drew 23,912 and a live gate of $105,183. Louis' purse was $34,616, Baer's $12,981.

Bowe-Ferguson drew about 9,000. Yet Bowe made $7 million and his challenger $500,000.

*

Art Aragon, 1950s "Golden Boy" of Los Angeles boxing, sends along a sheet showing his 1954 fight results (13-0) and earnings.

Aragon, a big-time main-eventer at the time, earned $1,481.08 for his biggest purse in 1954, $971.20 for his smallest. Total 1954 boxing income: $13,242.68.

Aragon's biggest purse was the $110,000 he got for fighting (and losing) to Carmen Basilio. But Aragon adds: "It cost me $120,000 to get out of the hospital."

Boxing Notes

The undercard for the June 7 Foreman-Morrison bout at Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center: Oscar De La Hoya (7-0) vs. Troy Dorsey (12-7-4), and Zack Padilla (16-1-1) vs. Carlos Gonzalez (36-0).

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