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Darn, that Shavers!

Jul 15, 2003 4:23 AM

In the heat of the moment, when the brain becomes fried and even the pool no longer beckons because I’m in enough hot water, now is the time for all good columnists to wing it.

Especially since there really isn’t any good action fight ”” action in the sense of gambling ”” coming up before Aug. 23 and Laila Ali vs. Christy Martin.

I jest.

Am I looking forward to the Oscar de la Hoya vs Sugar Shane Mosley and Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko rematches? Yes, but I’d rather see the imaginary second fight between Larry Holmes and Ken Norton.

There are probably more fights we didn’t get to see that could have been great. Holmes’s razor-thin 15-round decision over Norton in 1978, in the best heavyweight barnburner outside of Ali-Frazier I and III, was to have had a reprise. Except Earnie Shavers got in the way by stiffing Norton, forcing Holmes-Shavers II instead (almost as one-sided as Holmes-Shavers I except for the knockdown that almost cost Larry his title).

Then there was the rematch between Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe. Their 1988 Olympics final was unsatisfactory. They were to have fought as pros for the heavyweight title. Lewis said Bowe ducked, Bowe said Lewis ducked. Actually both camps were in no hurry to make the bout, preferring to let it simmer, stir, and build.

So, as often happens, it built and built and built until it disappeared.

I would have loved to have seen a rematch between Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez so we could see what everyone but a couple of judges couldn’t ”” the complete superiority of Sweet Pea.

Bob Arum made sure we never had a chance to see Whitaker exact some revenge from the judges by allowing de la Hoya to get near the great little southpaw a second time. The first time, Arum went "whew, that was close, never again," and when de la Hoya ”” whose own spirit would have demanded a rematch ”” meekly agreed with the promoter, Chicken de la Hoya was born. This was not my best nickname. I prefer Andrew (Foul Pole) Golota and Larry (Hap) Hazzard and my latest, Lou Da Bully.

I would have loved to seen Azumah Nelson get another shot at Salvador Sanchez, who unfortunately was killed in a car crash after the great Mexican beat the great Ghanian.

I would love to have seen Dwight Qawi get another shot at Michael Spinks. And as an aside, let me comment on the recent passing of the second of Qawi’s great trainers, Wesley Mouzon, at 75.

Mouzon, who worked with the late Quenzell McCall in fashioning a heady light-heavyweight and cruiserweight champion out of a 5-foot-6 ex-con, both admitted to me that Spinks deserved the decision in their battle of 175-pound rulers. I had disagreed.

Later, when examining my scorecard and the eight rounds I had given Qawi, at least one of the official judges matched my scoring and somehow came up with a clear unanimous decision for Spinks.

Holmes and Gerry Cooney deserved a reprise, as did many other top matchups. Politics ”” one fighter with this promoter, the other with another, or one with one network, the second with a rival ”” have robbed a game which needs big bouts to survive. Where is the rematch between Acelino Freitas and Joel Casamayor?

We did get some rematches, but much too late in the day to matter ”” Sugar Ray Leonard waited until he thought Thomas Hearns was finished (and boy was he surprised), Chavez couldn’t get Meldrick Taylor back until the Philadelphia fighter was virtually ruined (mostly by Chavez in their first meeting).

If we didn’t believe it the first time, we had to the second with Aaron Pryor, no black bottle and Emanuel Steward instead of Panama Lewis in the corner, beating up Alexis Arguello. And the second time around, Mike Tyson took the coward’s way out by trying to devour Evander Holyfield before getting knocked out again.

On a lesser level, we’ve had three meetings of Arturo Gatti with Micky Ward. But I would loved to have seen a second meeting between Caveman Lee and Johnny LoCicero in what had to be the ultimate ESPN Fight. Write to your Congressman to demand the network show it again every other month, along with a replay of Matthew Saad Muhammad’s good works, the Carmen Basilio-Tony DeMarco debates and of course the Tony Zale-Rocky Marciano trilogy.

But let’s count our blessings. They are not over. We still have on tap Oscar-Shane II, Lennox-Vitali II and maybe enough good fights to warrant do-overs later.