Friday, Dec. 20, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
With Oliver McCall increasingly unreliable, preliminary plans are already being made to find a replacement for him in the event he drops out of his Feb. 7 World Boxing Council heavyweight title fight with Lennox Lewis at the Las Vegas Hilton.
McCall and Lewis signed for the fight last month, but McCall was arrested late Saturday night in Nashville, Tenn., and charged with disorderly conduct, vandalism and resisting arrest. It was the third time he was arrested in 1996.
He also failed to show at a press conference Wednesday in New York City.
"The promoter (Dino Duva of Main Events) is looking for an alternative (for McCall)," said Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. "They're making contingency plans."
Efforts to reach Duva, as well as McCall's promoter, Don King, late Thursday were unsuccessful.
The Hilton, however, is aware that McCall's position on the card is in jeopardy. He spent last August in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, plus he was already on probation from an earlier arrest in Chicago.
"Nothing has changed and we fully expect Oliver McCall to fight Lennox Lewis," said Tim Chanaud, the Hilton's director of public relations. "However, should there be a change, we're willing to work with the promoter and the WBC, and we still expect to host the WBC heavyweight championship fight."
Lewis is hoping McCall is his opponent in the title fight, not only because McCall is an ex-WBC champion and has something of a name, but because McCall defeated Lewis in 1994.
"If McCall feels he can beat me once again, he's greatly mistaken," Lewis said by phone from New York. "I've waited a long time to fight him again. He's been running from me.
"Hopefully, he'll show up."
With one punch in the second round of their '94 fight in London, McCall stopped Lewis and earned the WBC championship that he would later lose to Frank Bruno.
While Lewis now calls that stoppage "premature, especially when I saw the referee at a party with Don King 10 days later," he also said he would retire from the sport if McCall beats him again.
"If he wins, there wouldn't be any reason for me to go on," Lewis said.
But with McCall supposedly headed back into drug and alcohol rehab, it's unclear if he'll be able to train properly for a fight that's only seven weeks away.
The solution may be to replace him on the card with another fighter from the WBC's top 10, although, due to previous commitments, the choices are limited.
The current WBC top 10, in order: Lewis, McCall, Mike Tyson, Henry Akinwande, Zeljko Mavrovic, Orlin Norris, Andrew Golota, Corrie Sanders, David Tua and Tony Tucker.
Of those, the little-known Mavrovic may get the call as there was already talk that he would have a spot on the Lewis-McCall undercard.
By WBC rule, a fight to fill a vacant title requires both participants to be in the top 10.