Crown Boxing has been promoting fights at the Orleans for some three years and prior to that at the famed Stardust. Friday, May 22 will be a ground breaking card with former heavyweight champ Oliver McCall coming out of retirement at age 44 to compete in a division famed for 40-something comebacks.
And no, McCall is not fighting George Foreman. He is taking on John Hopoate, the Australian champion with all 11 of his wins by knockout. The bout will be for the IBA Heavyweight Championship, but the impact is larger for the Orleans and Crown Boxing.
"This card is as good as we have ever had at the Orleans," said Frank Luca, Crown Boxing promoter and one-time trainer for heavyweight Earnie Shavers who fought for the title in the 1970s against Muhammad Ali. "Oliver is in the gym training and looks like a million bucks. When I heard Oliver was interested in making a comeback, I made some moves and checked to see if there was a title available. The IBA crown was there and the fight was made."
McCall had been a presence at the last two Orleans cards where he son Elijah fought and won his two matchups. "I guess seeing Elijah in the ring got Oliver’s juices flowing again," Luca said. "And for a guy like Hopoate to go up against a former world champ can do wonders for his career."
McCall has had a colorful career to say the least. His biggest win was a stunning 1994 knockout of Lennox Lewis to win the heavyweight title. He then defended the title against an aging Larry Holmes until losing by decision in 1995 to Frank Bruno in London. McCall fought Lewis again in 1997 in one of boxing most bizarre bouts. McCall stopped fighting in the fourth and fifth rounds, began crying and eventually forced referee Mills Lane to halt the bout.
McCall continued fighting into 2007 when he lost a WBC elimination bout to Juan Carlos Gomez, who recently lost to champion Vitali Klitschko. This will be McCall’s first fight in two years and the Orleans will be taking bets on the main event.
There will be six other bouts on the card at the 2,000-seat Mardi Gras Ballroom. Tickets are on sale at the Orleans box office (365-7075) and can be purchased for $50 ringside and $25 reserved.