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Visions of Forrest from an L.A. Holiday Inn

Jun 24, 2003 7:51 AM

Thoughts while stuck at a Holiday Inn room in Los Angeles waiting for the Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko bout.

Feel no real excitement. Don’t care who wins, don’t care who loses.

Yeah, I’m jaded. I’ve seen too many bad fights over the years. It takes something really special to whet my appetite, and I’m not talking Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward.

You want ESPN fights, ask your mother to show you her tape of the Johnny Âí­LoÂí­Cicero-Cavemen Lee classic slugfest.

I stopped counting the number of championship fights I’ve covered when it reached 100 back in 1980. It must be close to a thousand now. I have every excuse to be jaded if I want.

But there is something on the immediate horizon to which I’m looking forward, albeit with much trepidation. That’s because I have broken one of the cardinal rules for boxing writers and Âí­allowed my respect and admiration for a fighter to get the better of me.

I fear for Vernon Forrest on July 12. I could not have been gladder that it was this all-round good guy who came along to beat another of my all-time favorites, Sugar Shane Mosley.

Forrest is the rare type, a world-class athlete who is even greater outside his sport. He is a fighter, don’t get me wrong, but he sees life outside the ring, too, and he works hard there with what used to be called the mentally handicapped. Forrest calls them his "special" people and damned if they aren’t special. Their character, the purity of their love, are so rare it obviously takes a "special" person like Forrest to connect.

Forrest, a magnificent boxer, is a 6-foot-1 welterweight who knows his way around the ring and can bang a little. Just ask Mosley. But in losing last January to Ricardo Mayorga, he may have created a new star.

Forrest was taken out of his game plan by a first-round knockdown he felt was a slip. In his anger, he decided to slug with the slugger. He hit Mayorga with everything and Mayorga knocked him out in the third round. This time, Vernon promises he’ll be smart, take the beer-guzzling, former chain-smoking Mayorga into the later rounds and see what kind of stamina he has.

I cannot bet against Forrest, can’t root for money against such a good guy, even if I can still get plus $2.50 on Mayorga, who I think should be favored. I know, I should be kicked out of the club for allowing sentiment to interfere with business. But there may be some other bets on that card ”” Don King seemingly giving his employees some work even if he has to pick up the tab himself since HBO will be televising only the DeMarcus (Chop Chop) Corley-Zab Judah junior welterweight bout along with Mayorga-Forrest.

Don’t tell my fellow Brooklynite, but

I bet against Zab when he fought Kostya Tszyu. The Russian is one of the best fighters in the world. Period. He dominated Forrest in the amateurs. But Judah is multi-talented and should be worth almost any price against Chop Chop.

Off television, another talented junior welter, Vivian Harris, meets his WBA mandatory, Souleymane Mbaye, a King fighter. Harris has been kept idle for almost eight months since his shockingly easy KO of Diobelys Hurtado, whose only previous losses were to Tszyu and Whitaker after knocking each down twice. Harris, a Thomas Hearns clone with not quite the same power, is in with a real fighter ”” at least, that’s what Harris says after watching tapes.

With any Don King card, bouts disappear, to be replaced by other matchups that will disappear. In the end, it will be long and interesting for any real fight fan and will include a few good betting opportunities.

Unlike Bob Arum cards, like next weekend’s pay-per-view show from Puerto Rico, where it’s Top Rank Hero vs. Opponent. At least we have Oscar de la Hoya-Mosley II to anticipate. Let’s thank de la Hoya for that. If it were up to Arum, Oscar would give a rematch to Yory Boy Campas.

Was looking forward to James Toney-Bernard Hopkins, but kind of knew it wouldn’t happen. Just not enough money there. Hopkins accepted $4.3 million, Toney $2.5 million (though it’s his cruiserweight title they’d be fighting for). Then King realized he couldn’t afford that so he asked Hopkins to take $3.5 million, at which point the middleweight champion decided he needed a vacation in Cancun.

It won’t be in time for August, but maybe we’ll get Toney challenging Chris Byrd or he could give a rematch to Vasilliy Jirov (which won’t be much of a fight, I’m afraid). Take away July 12, and it looks like a very dull summer in the ring.