Thursday, Dec. 19, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Oliver McCall's behavior has become increasingly suspicious, leaving his Feb. 7 opponent at the Las Vegas Hilton wondering whether the former WBC heavyweight champion intends to show up.
Three days after being arrested for vandalism, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in Nashville, Tenn., McCall failed to show Wednesday in New York at a press conference to formally announce his February title fight at the Las Vegas Hilton with Lennox Lewis.
Was McCall supposed to be at the press conference? "Yes," Lewis replied during a conference call later in the day.
And what did he make of McCall's absence? "I'm always concerned about any fight that has (promoter) Don King's air about it," he said.
While King is not promoting the Feb. 7 card, he does promote McCall. Lewis, for whatever reason, feels King has something up his sleeve.
"King's focus right now should be on McCall and keeping him out of trouble," Lewis said. "McCall's known to get in trouble. Hopefully they can control him enough to get him to the fight, but he (King) is to blame that something has happened already."
That "something" was McCall apparently going berserk in a Nashville hotel early Sunday morning. After McCall threw a drinking glass, an ashtray and a Christmas tree in the hotel lobby, police were called and the fighter was asked to leave peacefully. When he declined, he was arrested.
It was McCall's third arrest of 1996, plus he spent a month in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. A Monday statement from King's office indicated McCall would resume his drug rehab while continuing to prepare for Lewis.
"I think Don King would do anything to sabotage the (Feb. 7) show," said Lewis' manager, Frank Maloney. "No matter what he says, he's a wolf in sheep's clothing."
Should McCall be unfit to fight, Lewis and Maloney are counting on the WBC to find a replacement and continue sanctioning the fight as a championship event.
"All I can tell you is that I'll be there for sure," Lewis said of keeping his end of the deal. "If they want to come in with someone else instead of McCall, fine."
Around the ring
* BELT-LESS GRIFFIN: The World Boxing Union is one of those trivial, useless organizations that populate the boxing map and do nothing more than confuse the casual fan. But when WBU light heavyweight champion James Toney was defeated by Montell Griffin two weeks ago in Reno, Griffin was pleased and he naturally presumed he had become the new WBU champ. The WBU, however, has belatedly announced it would not recognize the change in champions because it did not agree with how the Nevada State Athletic Commission selected the judges. "They're completely wrong," said NSAC executive director Marc Ratner. "If the WBU doesn't want to abide by Nevada rules, we won't welcome them back." OK, fair enough. But now what becomes of the belt-less Griffin? "We're extraordinarily disappointed," said his manager, John Caluwaert, by phone from his Elmhurst, Ill., office. "We contracted to fight for the WBU title and Montell thought he won the WBU belt. They gave him a belt in the ring and he was walking around with it after he won the fight. I guess it was only symbolic." Caluwaert said he would appeal to the WBU because "I care about the integrity of the sport. The WBU victimized an innocent kid and this only makes a mockery of all the sanctioning bodies." Whatever consolation it may be, even without a belt the 26-0 Griffin now has to be seen as no worse than the third-best fighter at 175 pounds (behind only Roy Jones and perhaps Virgil Hill). Caluwaert is now attempting to maneuver Griffin into a deal with HBO, which holds a certain disdain toward every sanctioning organization. "We're talking about a doubleheader on HBO (in March) with Jones fighting Hill and Montell fighting someone like Frank Tate," Caluwaert said. "I'm pushing for that fight but we'll fight anyone they want to put before us. I want to keep Montell busy. As it is, he's still the best-kept secret in boxing."
* ALADDIN CARD: Saturday at the Aladdin, Teiken Promotions of Tokyo will present a seven-bout card at 5:30 p.m. that will be televised back to Japan. In the main event, WBA super bantamweight champion Antonio Cermeno, 25-1, defends his title against Yuichi Kasai, 24-2-1. Cermeno is coming off a Nov. 9 win in Las Vegas (on the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield undercard) in which he handled Eddy Saenz with ease. Cermeno knocked Saenz down in the first round and finally stopped him in the fifth for his 16th KO victory. He has, however, complained of hand troubles this week while sparring in Las Vegas. Also scheduled: Saul Duran, 22-2, vs. Hector Velazquez, 12-3-1, 10 rounds, junior lightweights; Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, 12-3-1, vs. Fernando Alanis, 11-3-3, 10 rounds, super bantamweights; Gerardo Martinez, 12-0-1, vs. Roberto Lopez, 13-5-1, 10 rounds, bantamweights; Joey Borrero, 7-2-1, vs. Francisco Rodriguez, 6-2-2, six rounds, super bantamweights; Dustin Kim, 1-0, vs. Celestino Rodriguez, 1-0-1, four rounds, featherweights; and Roger Gonzarez, 1-0, vs. David Aguilar, 0-2, four rounds, flyweights. Tatsuyoshi requires special NSAC approval to fight due to once having had a detached retina, but he was to be examined this week and that approval is expected to be granted at the commission's Friday meeting. (In addition to the seven announced fights, IBF featherweight champ Tom Johnson has been in town training in hopes of getting a tune-up bout in preparation for his Feb. 8 unification fight in London with WBO champ Naseem Hamed. But Johnson's position on the Aladdin card was made even less clear after he suffered a cut near his left eye while sparring Tuesday.)
* QUICK HITS: Local boxing judge Jerry Roth is recovering at home after open-heart surgery. ... HBO will rebroadcast last Friday's fight in New Jersey between Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota tonight. Bowe won by disqualification in the ninth round of a bout that drew surprisingly poor pay-per-view numbers; early surveys indicate only 170,000 sales after 500,000 were anticipated. As for the DQ-prone Golota, NSAC executive director Marc Ratner said "we wouldn't just license him as we do most guys" if Golota was proposed for a fight in Nevada. "We'd have a commission meeting and let him know what we expect," Ratner said. ... WBA heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield is close to committing to a June 21 rematch in Las Vegas with Mike Tyson. "I think 1997 is going to be a glorious year for me," Holyfield said while in New York last week, adding that '97 would be his final year as a fighter. ... Tyson is co-sponsoring a turkey giveaway Sunday in Las Vegas. According to a press release, he'll be at the local chapter of the NAACP (Owens and H streets) at 2 p.m. to distribute 500 free turkeys to "the less fortunate." ... As part of Friday's 9 a.m. NSAC meeting, the public is invited to comment on proposed regulation changes. ... Johnny Tapia has the flu and is off the Jan. 18 card at the Thomas & Mack Center. ... The co-headliner that night, Miguel Gonzalez, has moved his training camp from Las Vegas to Detroit to be with new trainer Emanuel Steward. Gonzalez will face Oscar De La Hoya at the T&M. ... Top Rank has announced a Jan. 11 card at the Tropicana although the main event has already changed and it's now Paulie Ayala, 19-0, vs. Famosito Gomez, 36-6. ... Saturday on HBO, IBF lightweight champ Philip Holiday, 28-0, takes on Ivan Robinson, 23-0, from Uncasville, Conn. Air time is 11:15 p.m. ... KRLV (1340 AM) has expanded the Ring Talk boxing show to a second day, host Pedro Fernandez said. Aside from a one-hour show Saturdays at 8 p.m., a second two-hour show Sundays at 8 p.m. has been added. Both shows go live from the Imperial Palace sports book.