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King Stripped of Lewis-McCall Fight

November 15, 1996

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) _ A New Jersey judge says boxing should consider a commissioner to oversee the various sanctioning bodies, and suggested if something isn’t done, the federal government might step in.

``It’s bad; it’s not run fairly,″ Superior Court Judge Amos Saunders said Thursday. ``Promoters do what they want, the `ABC’ organizations do what they want.″

Saunders made the comments before stripping Don King of the rights to promote a WBC heavyweight title bout between Lennox Lewis and Oliver McCall and giving them to Totowa-based Main Events.

The judge has presided over numerous boxing-related lawsuits over the past six years, including litigation earlier this year that saw Lewis agree in May to step aside for $4 million to allow Mike Tyson to fight Bruce Seldon.

Tyson, however, decided to fight Evander Holyfield rather than Lewis and gave up the WBC title in September after beating Seldon to win the WBA championship. Holyfield beat Tyson on Saturday.

``I don’t know why with all the alphabet organizations, I don’t know why they all can’t get their acts together ... and handle these disputes and handle these problems,″ Saunders said.

Saunders ruled Thursday that Don King Productions failed to meet contractual obligations when the WBC on Sept. 26 accepted the company’s $9.2 million purse bid for a Lewis-Oliver McCall fight.

Saunders instead awarded the bout to Main Events, which bid $6.2 million for the fight. Lewis and McCall each is guaranteed $3.1 million instead of the $4.6 million each would have received from King.

Lewis said money was not the issue.

``It just means I do get my date,″ Lewis said after the hearing. ``I can feel more assured the fight will go on.″

WBC attorney Bob Shaffer called the contract problems ``hypertechnical.″ Attorneys indicated they would appeal the decision.

``The WBC wanted the fight to take place as soon as possible and we wanted the purse of the boxers to be the highest possible,″ WBC president Jose Sulaiman said.

``Very unfortunately for the boxers, the fight is going to take place after Jan. 11 and with $3 million less,″ Sulaiman said. ``We tried our best for the best of the boxers.″

Under WBC rules, King was required to pay 10 percent of the successful bid within eight days, set a date and place for the fight within 15 days and hold the bout within 90 days.

The deposit was more than a week late, and a tentative Jan. 11 date in Nashville, Tenn., was set only recently after the WBC agreed to a 30-day extension at a meeting last month in Argentina.

``I didn’t see any contract, any agreement that the fight was going to go on,″ said Saunders, who also ordered the fighters to split King’s more than $900,000 deposit. ``All was up to negotiations.″

King refused comment on the decision, but was overheard saying ``this is sad″ as he left the courthouse.

Dino Duva, president of Main Events and Lewis’ promoter in the United States, said King had no intention of staging the fight in January.

``He doesn’t control Lennox Lewis,″ Duva said of King. ``I look forward to promoting the fight. They told me we had to do it in 90 days and we’ll do it in 90 days.″

Attorneys for the WBC and King tried to give their assurances, but Saunders said it was only the litigation that prompted them to move.

``You have nothing to indicate you have a firm deal,″ he said.

Saunders ordered Tyson to refrain from boxing after the Frank Bruno fight in March until he fought Lewis. Lewis claimed he should have fought Bruno instead of Tyson.

The May agreement resolved that, but then Tyson decided to fight Holyfield instead of Lewis.

``And you wonder why Mr. Lewis has some concern over the certainty of the January date?″ Saunders said.

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