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BOXING NOTES

Klitschko Ready to Shift Gears

June 19, 2003|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

The pain in the shoulder has long since faded. But the pain of being asked about it persists.

Vitali Klitschko, who will face heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis on Saturday night at Staples Center, faced reporters at a Wednesday news conference.

And faced questions again and again about the torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder that caused Klitschko to quit after the ninth round of a World Boxing Organization title fight against Chris Byrd in April 2000.

It's a fair question. The loss is the only blemish on Klitschko's record (32-1, 31 knockouts).

He patiently repeated what he has said for more than three years, that the pain had become so severe that he was seeing white flashes, blinding him and making it impossible to continue.

But when Klitschko was asked if he would show more fortitude Saturday night if the same thing should happen again, he seemed to lose patience.

"When I am healthy, I can fight anyone," he said. "When I am not healthy, that is it."

But what if it did happen again?

"When you drive a car," Klitschko said, "do you think that, in 200 yards, you are going to have an accident? You never think that. I don't want to think that way."

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Super-middleweight Ricardo Williams (8-1, one no-contest, five knockouts), attempting to get back in the win column after losing in February, will face Dagoberto Najera (16-5, five knockouts) of Bell in an eight-round match on Saturday's card.

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Both Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, and Lucia Rijker, considered by many to be the best female fighter in the world, will be on Saturday's card in separate matches.

But neither fight will be televised.

"Unfortunately," Rijker said, "we haven't convinced HBO that the world wants to see women fight on TV.

"But I'm glad we at least have two women's fights on a men's card. That's major."

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Oscar De La Hoya has a theory as to why Felix "Tito" Trinidad retired suddenly last July.

And it has more to do with waiting out a contract with promoter Don King than with injuries or pleasing his fearful mother.

"Oh yes, I know that when you're paying somebody even 10% that bothers me," said De La Hoya, who was known early in his career for frequently changing managers, trainers, corner men and the like. "If you have to pay 20, 30, 40% like we've heard about Trinidad, that's it."

It has been reported that Trinidad's contract with King expires two years after the loss of a title, and September will mark two years since Bernard Hopkins beat Trinidad and took his World Boxing Assn. middleweight championship belt.

De La Hoya, who fights Shane Mosley, the only other fighter to get a decision over him, in September, has been trying to coax Trinidad out of retirement for a rematch of the fight he lost by running the final three rounds.

"Oh yeah, I can guarantee you it's going to happen," De La Hoya said.

"I don't have nightmares or lose any sleep over the last three rounds. Now I know what I can do to him."

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Staff writer Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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