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‘Heavyweight Explosion’ wounds boxing

Mar 30, 2004 8:26 AM

Within a 15-day span in April, there will be four heavyweight "title" fights. Four, count ”˜em four. And the Washington Senators are in one World Series, the St. Louis Browns in another.

The inanity of this "Heavyweight Explosion," as opposed to the insanity, is that there’s probably not a single one of the eight "contestants" who are worthy of swaggering into a bar and announcing, "I can beat anybody in the house." Vitali Klitschko, I suppose, comes closest to being the one most likely to succeed in the long line from John L. Sullivan, but certainly not for beating Corrie Sanders.

At the end of the 15 days, there will of course be NO heavyweight champion of the world. Lennox Lewis’s successor will have to be chosen after a long and probably tortuous struggle. I’m not sure even Don King can put all the pieces together for a "tournament" of these jokesters to provide the world with a single heavyweight champion.

This is not a case of the more the merrier, except for us gamblers. The more action wherein two opponents are at least presumed to be trying their damnedest, the better it is for us. So leaving aside the purity of the sport, let’s take a look at all the fun coming up.

It starts April 10 at Mandalay Bay with Wladimir Klitschko, the little brother, meeting the correctly unheralded Lamon Brewster for the vacant WBOgus title. This is not even the main event that night. It is the walkout bout for the welterweight clash between undisputed 147-pound champion Cory Spinks and Zab Judah.

Little Brother, showed a very suspect chin last year when Sanders, who was about to retire to a life of golf, blasted him out in two rounds. That said more about Wladimir than it did about the South African southpaw who, after all, had been stopped by Hasim Rahman and Nate Tubbs (no, not Tony, his kid brother).

Wladimir has since had a couple of so-called confidence builders, but his confidence still is shabby and he is certainly not worth the 10-1 or 8-1 odds I’ve seen listed. Brewster, who managed to lose to Charles Shufford and Clifford Etienne, can punch a bit and may be the wrong man in the right place April 10. He was, after all, a national amateur champion. But, then, Wladimir as an amateur was an Olympic champion. The odds make Brewster the call in this one.

Next up, as part of one of those torture-chamber Don King cards at Madison Square Garden, are two (count ”˜em two) heavyweight "title" fights. In both cases, the defending "champion" is promoted by Don King. In both cases, the challenger is promoted by Don King (as is Brewster).

Chris Byrd has a legitimate claim to a title. After all, Lewis voluntarily gave up his IBF belt rather than face that organization’s No. 1 contender. His excuse was that (a) Byrd was too easy and (b) too boring. The reasons were really Byrd was (c) not enough money and (d) likely to make the champ look silly.

Byrd beat Vitali Klitschko, who quit because of a shoulder injury though it seemed the small left-hander was on his way to whipping his tiring butt. He has also lost to Vladimir (Byrd’s turn to make excuses).

Don King says he can’t sell his IBF champion. So he put him in with Andrew (Foul Pole) Golota, who deserves a title shot as much as your Aunt Mabel. Golota was listed by Art Manteris of Station Casinos as a 12-1 dog. Actually, he’s the biggest dog in the game but, if Don King could convince the IBF and New York State to allow this disgraceful event, maybe the powers would somehow allow Golota to win.

You know, a perfectly timed crippling shot to the groin while the referee was picking up some debris or an envelope, although Byrd’s connections tell me they are perfectly satisfied with the unnamed but already selected ring officials.

The other "title" bout that night is John Ruiz, somehow again holder of the WBA belt, defending against a fellow Puerto Rican, Fres Oquendo. On paper, this is the ugliest fight of the year going in. Ruiz will be favored. I bet on him against Rahman, but one shouldn’t go through life cashing wagers on this guy. If you gave me your money to bet, I’d buy Krispy Kreme donuts and to hell with diabetes. Oquendo is the guess. He’s the better boxer and can wrestle almost as well.

The following week, on April 24 in Los Angeles, Vitali Klitschko meets Sanders for the WBC title Lennox just vacated. Vitali deserved a rematch with Lennox, who instead opted to retire and we can’t fault him for that. Big Brother solidified his claim to No. 1 with that second-round whaling of Kirk (Blubber) Johnson.

Some people will rush to anoint the winner as the "real" champion. Bull. There’s no way Sanders should be ranked No. 2. He has fought once in 16 months and three times in three years. Vitali is listed at 3-1. He’d be a bargain at 8-1. The bet here is also the under, whatever. I can’t see Sanders lasting more than a couple of rounds.