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January 24, 1994

LONDON (AP) _ Nearly three years since his last fight, former British heavyweight champion Gary Mason is coming out of retirement.

Mason, 31, said Monday he will fight Kimmuel Odun in a 10-round bout Saturday at Grand Forks, N.D.

″If people say I’m mad to come back, I’ll have to say they are right,″ Mason said. ″But all you can do is what you feel is right. Sparring was a bit fearsome at first, but once I got used to being hit again, that went away.″

It will be his first fight since March 1991, when he lost to Lennox Lewis, Mason’s only professional defeat. Mason sustained an eye injury against Lewis, adding to an earlier detached retina.

Mason said he has been cleared to fight by medical and boxing officials in the United States. If he beats Odun, he will consider re-applying for a British boxing license.

″I first want to prove to the British Board that I can fight and I’m able to box,″ he said. ″There are questions left which I want to answer myself.″

Mason declared bankruptcy after the failure of several business deals. But he claimed his comeback was not for financial reasons.

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MILAN, Italy (AP) - Verona, led by Sylvester Grey and Henry Williams, remained tied atop the Italian League standings with Trieste by defeating Clear Cantu 97-86.

Williams scored 27 points and Grey had 25 in Sunday’s victory, the 11th in a row for Verona, which improved its record to 14-3.

Trieste kept pace by defeating Pesaro 87-82.

Defending champion Bologna (12-5) lost to Reggio Calabria 94-86 and dropped into a third-place tie with Milan, which beat Pistoia 84-77.

Benetton Treviso defeated Lora Venezia 73-67 and held fifth place at 11-6.

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TOKYO (AP) - Seiji Asakawa of Japan will challenge WBA featherweight champion Eloy Rojas of Venezuela in a title bout March 19.

Asakawa’s manager, Takashi Tanizaki, said Monday that the 12-round bout will be at the 7,500-seat Kobe World Memorial Hall.

It will be Rojas’ first defense of the title he won from Park Yung-kyung of South Korea Dec. 5.

For Asakawa, it will be his second challenge for a world title. He was knocked out by then-champion Park in the ninth round in January 1992.

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AP) - Greg LeMond, a three-time winner of the Tour de France, dropped out of the Tour de Mexico race Sunday following the eighth leg because of altitude problems.

LeMond, a pre-race favorite, was in 95th place. Raul Alcala of Mexico held the lead.

″We are in the high altitudes now and this was not contemplated in my training for the Tour de France,″ LeMond said.

He said he didn’t know the race route was at an altitude of more than 3,300 feet. He raced the same route in 1987.

More than 30 of the 168 starters have dropped out so far.

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TESERO, Italy (AP) - Defending Olympic champion Stefania Belmondo and Olympic silver medalists Marco Albarello and Maurilio De Zolt will lead the Italian cross country ski teams in the Winter Games at Lillehammer next month.

The men’s and women’s squads for the Olympics were announced Monday at the Italian Championships, which Belmondo has won three times.

Belmondo is the defending Olympic champion in the women’s 30-kilometer freestyle event and a two-time world champion. Manuela Di Centa and Gabriella Paruzzi are two other leading members of the Italian women’s team.

De Zolt, a 44-year-old veteran who placed second to Norwegian star Bjorn Daehlie in the Olympic 50-kilometer freestyle, will team with Albarello, Silvio Fauner, Giorgio Vanzetta, Gianfranco Polvara, Fulvio Valbusa, Silvano Barco, Fabio Maj, Gaudenzio Godioz and Maurizio Pozzi.

Albarello won the silver medal, behind Norway’s Vegard Ulvang, in the 10K individual event at the 1992 Olympics and led the Italian quartet to second place in the relay.

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HELSINKI, Finland (AP) - Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi, a 38-year-old cross- country skier, leads a Finnish team of 63 athletes chosen Monday for the Winter Olympics.

Kirvesniemi is a five-time Olympic medalist, including three golds. She is going to her sixth Olympic games.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Maria Mutola of Mozambique, ranked No. 1 in the world at 800 meters in 1993, plans to try for the world indoor 880-yard record at the Sunkist Invitational Feb. 19 at the Sports Arena.

Mutola was unbeaten indoors and outdoors last year and won the World Outdoor Championships in a career-best 1 minute, 55.43 seconds.

The world indoor 880 record is 1:59.7 by Mary Slaney in 1980.

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