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BOXING NOTES

It's Not HBO -- It's Women Fighting

June 21, 2003|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

HBO officials don't think enough of female boxing to put the women on their telecast. But promoter Gary Shaw has two eight-round female bouts on tonight's undercard at Staples Center, where World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will defend against Vitali Klitschko.

Of course, Shaw didn't have much choice.

Originally, Lewis was to defend against Kirk Johnson and Klitschko was to fight in the semi-main event against Cedric Boswell. But when Johnson suffered a partially torn chest muscle in a sparring session and Klitschko was paired with Lewis, that left a bleak undercard. At least in terms of the men.

The semi-main event, a 10-round junior-lightweight match between Phillip N'dou (30-1, 29 knockouts) of South Africa and Yoni Vargas (24-4, 12) of Westminster isn't exactly going to make the scalpers rich.

But in terms of female competition, Shaw came up with two of the three best in the world. Unfortunately, they are not fighting each other.

Laila Ali (14-0, 11 KOs), the daughter of Muhammad Ali who has become a good enough fighter to stand on her own, will face Valerie Mahfood (13-5, 7 KOs). Mahfood is taking a second shot at Ali, who won by eighth-round TKO last November.

"[Mahfood] thinks they stopped the fight too soon. Well, I also think they stopped it too soon," Ali said with a grin.

Lucia Rijker (15-0, 14 KOs), considered by many to be the best female fighter in the world, will face Jane Couch (19-4, 8 KOs) of England. Couch made history in her homeland when she won a legal victory over the British Boxing Board of Control, forcing it to grant its first boxing license for a woman.

Rijker hopes to fight the other recognized world-class female boxer, Christy Martin, by year's end.

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Super-middleweight Ricardo Williams, also scheduled to be on the card, had to drop out when his opponent, Dagoberto Najera, wasn't able to complete his paperwork in time.

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The eight-bout show begins at 3:10 p.m. with the main event scheduled to start just past 7. Tickets remain in all price categories.

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