Tuesday, Sept. 30, 1997 | 10:55 a.m.
In an unexpected turn of events, the Nevada State Athletic Commission today lifted the suspension of boxer Oliver McCall without collecting a fine or setting a disciplinary hearing. The former heavyweight champion is now free to fight in any state.
"In all candor, Oliver wasn't expecting this," said Marty Keach, a Las Vegas attorney serving as McCall's co-counsel. "He'll be tickled pink."
McCall had been under temporary suspension by the commission for quitting in the fifth round of his Feb. 7 title fight with Lennox Lewis at the Las Vegas Hilton. His $3 million purse was immediately withheld.
The Lewis-McCall fight ended with McCall sobbing in the ring and not putting up a defense, which caused referee Mills Lane to end the bout and proclaim Lewis the winner.
Keach and co-counsel Oscar Goodman had negotiated a settlement with the NSAC in which McCall would be fined $250,000. However, that settlement was never implemented as a federal judge in New Jersey ruled he had control over McCall's purse due to a lawsuit filed by HBO -- which televised the Feb. 7 fight -- against McCall.
"This could be a landmark case that could very well end up in the Supreme Court," Goodman said. "It pits the judicial interests of the federal court against the rights of a state."
Those attending today's NSAC meeting at the Grant Sawyer Building had to agree with Nevada Deputy Attorney General Donald Haight when he said "this case has become complicated."
It's the HBO suit that complicated matters but the bottom line is that McCall can fight again; he doesn't have to undergo any testing; and his purse from the Lewis fight is apt to be withheld until the HBO suit is resolved.
"This could take time," Haight said. "It could take a year or more."
Commission member Dr. James Nave offered a motion in which McCall's suspension would be immediately lifted. After considerable discussion, the motion was approved.
As part of the motion it was stipulated that McCall would have to offer proof of his physical and mental well-being before being relicensed to fight in Nevada. However, as NSAC executive director Marc Ratner said, "He can fight now anywhere in the world."
Keach said McCall, who lives in Virginia and did not attend the NSAC hearing, had no immediate boxing plans but that "he wants to fight and now he can get in shape to do it."