From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 20, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / March 20, 1999

Dennis Rodman has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe Don King can sign him up to be Evander Holyfield’snext opponent in the ring. Or better yet, maybe he can be a judge forHolyfield’s next title bout.

And why not? Rodman has shown he can make his own mind-boggling decisions, (showing up in a wedding gown for a book signing comes to mind). And after Holyfield’s fight with Lennox Lewis this past weekend,you have to wonder about the qualifications of being a boxing judge.

Explain how one boxer can land 348 punches while his opponent connects on 130 and the fight is ruled a draw. That is exactly what happenedbetween Lewis and Holyfield Saturday night. In the fifth round alone,Lewis landed 43 of 57 punches while Holyfield connected on 11 of 20 yet one judge still gave the round to Holyfield.

This was supposed to be an important night for boxing, one that would allow the sport to unite its three different titles and declare an undisputed champion. Instead, it got one of its most disputed fights inrecent years. Instead of creating the positive headlines it desperatelyneeds, all it did was create material for Jay Leno and David Letterman.

One member of Lewis’ camp even jokingly suggested using Ray Charles as a judge for its next fight.

Over 21,000 spectators paid between $100 and $1,500 to witness the farce in a venue that once had a proud history with boxing, Madison Square Garden. It was that site 28 years ago that Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazierfor the heavyweight title. Over a million more fans shelled out $49.95 towatch the fight on pay-per-view.

What those fans got for their money was a less than stellar effort by the fighters and a less-than-logical decision by the judges. There is truly asad state of affairs in a sport when many say it needs a Mike Tyson to come back.

Saturday’s fight was between a 33-year-old and a 36-year-old. Where areall the young boxers? What is going to happen to the sport in the future? Oh, don’t expect boxers like Holyfield, Lewis, Tyson or George Foreman to go away soon. Already there is talk about a rematch between Lewis andHolyfield. Don King could not be happier. And you can bet that the call for a rematch has little to do about unifying the titles. There is money to be made and where there is money, there willbe Don King.

There are arguments that the next fight will not bring in as much money because fans are tired of shelling out the big bucks for front row seats or for pay-per-view. But fans will continue to come to the bouts, continue topay to watch fights that could last less than a minute or end in questionable decisions.

It was Phineas T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” AndBarnum would love the state of boxing today, a better circus and sideshow than even the master showman could ever dream of putting on.

Sounds like the perfect place for Rodman.

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