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The Inside Track | Mike Penner / SOUND AND VISION

In England, Lewis' Bout Is Not Their Cup of Tea

June 21, 2003|Mike Penner

Lennox Lewis is huge. He weighed in at a massive 256 1/2 pounds for tonight's heavyweight title defense against Vitali Klitschko. He's nearly a 5-1 favorite to defeat Klitschko -- a mere 248 pounds, that wiry Ukrainian. He's the reason HBO is hoping to take this fight into more than 2.5 million homes.

And, he has been getting his buttocks kicked all over the canvas back home by a slight 165-pounder named David Beckham.

It has been 67 years since an Englishman won at Wimbledon, 37 since England won its only World Cup. English world champions are a very rare breed indeed, but a quick Internet scan of UK sports sections Friday revealed that the buildup to Lennox' title fight is getting pummeled by the continued teeth-gnashing over Beckham's sale by Manchester United to Real Madrid.

"FERGIE BLEW BECKS MOVE" screamed the biggest headline in the Mirror over a story quoting Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger criticizing Manchester United rival Alex Ferguson for selling his star midfielder.

This was accompanied by the even more intriguing "We're Sick Of Becks" -- a story detailing the resentment already brewing in the Real Madrid squad over Beckham's impeding arrival -- and another article about how Beckham had told Real defender Roberto Carlos months ago that they would soon be teammates.

Keep scrolling down and you'll eventually find a bit of Lewis coverage -- a column that quotes trainer Emanuel Steward hoping that his 37-year-old fighter will be enjoying retirement this time next year.

The Times of London highlighted two Beckham-related stories. One dealt with the refusal of Leeds striker Harry Kewell to sign with United because of his dismay over Ferguson's treatment of Beckham. The other featured coverage of Beckham's Asian promotional tour with wife Victoria, this a press gathering in Tokyo to plug a cosmetics line. Among the hard-line questions Beckham was forced to field:

"Do you like sweets?"

"What did you eat last night?"

Beckham, evidently bulking up for the rigors of life in the Spanish League, conceded he'd gone wild with a cheeseburger.

The Times' boxing coverage: A story about how Klitschko "feels at home in the City of Angels."

The Sun led with four Beckham-related stories before eventually getting around to Lewis under the headline: "Don't Come Back." In it, Steward urges Lewis to stay retired, once he decides to retire, which ought to be required reading for George Foreman, who is serving as analyst for HBO's coverage tonight.

Foreman, closing in on 55, says he might want to step back into the ring against Klitschko if the challenger upsets Lewis. Interesting. Every time I start to ponder Foreman's chances in such a fight, I'm reminded of what cooks best on one of Foreman's famous grills. Dead meat. Elsewhere on the telly during this big English-Angeleno weekend:


Angels at Dodgers

(Channel 11, 1 p.m.)

For those who might have wondered if the Southland balance of baseball power had truly swung when the Angels won the 2002 World Series, welcome to eight months down the line. Both teams are indulging in retro ball, for better or worse. The Dodgers are to be commended for bravely trying to play 1960s baseball -- pitching and praying for three runs -- in an era of 10-8 beer-league softball scores. The Angels, with a dubious history of following every playoff season with a wretched one, are living in 1987 (or is it 1983, or 1980?) all over again.

College World Series

(ESPN, 4 p.m.)

The clash of the Titans -- Cal State Fullerton versus ex-Titan coach Augie Garrido -- was preempted in order to bring you Rice versus Stanford for the national collegiate championship.

Yes, of baseball. You think they'd hold a spelling bee in Omaha?

NHL Draft

(ESPN2, 10 a.m.)

During which Duck and King fans can watch their teams draft players they've never heard of before and might never hear of again.

FIFA Confederations Cup: U.S. vs. Brazil

(Channel 46, noon)

It's sort-of-Brazil against not-quite-the United States in a soccer tournament that likes to imagine itself as the next-best thing to the World Cup, but really isn't close. With both teams missing several key players, Brazil and the U.S. start this match 0-1 in group play.

On a positive note, for those who remember ABC's hysterical coverage of the real World Cup last summer, the announcer for this will be speaking Spanish.

U.S. Track and Field Championships

(Channel 4, 1 p.m.)

Hoping, perhaps, to lure a few channel-surfing NASCAR fans to the scuffling sport of American track and field, NBC has enlisted its "voice of NASCAR," Allen Bestwick, to anchor coverage of this important meet.

Nice idea, but if NBC really wanted to pump up ratings here, it would find a way to have Tim Montgomery race Maurice Greene. In stock cars.


ArenaBowl, Arizona at Tampa Bay

(Channel 4, 2 p.m.)

Tampa Bay goes for the sweep of American football championships, NBC hopes for ratings somewhere between the numeric value of an extra point and a safety. NBC's springtime replacement for basketball averaged only a 1.0 rating for the first three playoff rounds.

Positive spin: That's 1.0 higher than NBC's 2003 NBA ratings.

NASCAR Winston Cup Dodge/ Save Mart 350

(Channel 11, 12:30 p.m.)

Nextel is paying $700 million for the right to replace Winston as NASCAR's title sponsor beginning in 2004. A Fox press release bills this race, in Sonoma, as "a road course through California's wine country ... [the] setting for a sport born in the business of running moonshine, and has since grown into a national passion." The upscaling of the NASCAR market continues.

Viewing tip for those new to the sport: Those guys rushing up to the car when it idles to a stop are the pit crew, not valet attendants.

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