Lennox on hold: Tied up by Akinwande's court-ordered challenge
Boxing Notes/by George Kimball

Sunday, November 28, 1999

Even as a triumphant Lennox Lewis returned to Britain with his new collection of championship belts, his management team was busy trying to head off the pressures holding an undisputed title is sure to bring.   Lewis' first inherited obligation appears to be a mandatory defense against Henry Akinwande, even though he thoroughly dominated ``Huggin' Hank'' in a 1997 bout from which Akinwande was ultimately disqualified.

Akinwande's right to a challenge, ironically, comes from a U.S. court, which was actually upholding the position of Orlin Norris to challenge for the World Boxing Association title. Norris instead agreed to fight Akinwande in an eliminator, and when the Briton won, he became the obligatory challenger.

``I don't think they want the fight,'' said Lewis manager Frank Maloney after lobbying the WBA at its Panama convention last week. ``They realize it's a bad fight, but it's a position they've been put in by a court order.''

Mass. confusion

The Massachusetts Boxing Commission, which has seemed frequently rudderless since a dispute between commissioner Mark ``Bazooka'' DeLuca and the former chairman led to the resignation of Dr. Wilbert ``Skeeter'' McClure, was plunged into further chaos this week when DeLuca abruptly resigned his post as chairman.   DeLuca, who had moved from his post as a Boston police sergeant to Chief of Police in Duxbury since succeeding McClure as chairman, is in the midst of a divorce proceeding, and was served with a restraining order, which he cited in submitting his resignation to Gov. Paul Cellucci.   Ironically, while relinquishing the reins at the boxing commission, DeLuca remains in his day job.   Although required by the order to relinquish his weapon and firearms permit, he was present in civilian clothes and helped present the trophies at Thursday's traditional Marshfield-Duxbury Thanksgiving Day game.

Where the commission goes from here is anybody's guess.   Nick Mansullo, now the body's senior member, would welcome the chairman's post.   With DeLuca off the commission, McClure might consider a return as well.

Your call, Guv.

McNeeley returns with KO

Popular New England heavyweight Peter McNeeley quietly returned to the ring in Tunica, Mississippi, last week, scoring a first-round knockout of aged former middleweight Jose Pagan.   The Medfield native had been out of action since his ill-fated fight with Butterbean in Las Vegas last June.   Pagan tasted the canvas three times in the brief bout.

Paz fires back

Vinny Pazienza, who sat at ringside at the ``Holiday War'' card in Cranston, R.I., Wednesday night, still has his hand in a cast and maintains he won his Nov. 4 rematch against Malden's Dana Rosenblatt, although the judges decided otherwise.   Paz said he is eager for a rubber match, but rejects demands of the Rosenblatt camp that it be at 160 pounds.

``That's ridiculous,'' said Pazienza. ``I'm not a middleweight, and he isn't either.''

Movin' on up

If this official communication from the WBC head office sounds like a title strip in the making, you're probably right: ``Welterweight world champion Felix Trinidad has officially informed the WBC that he is moving up in weight to challenge WBA champion David Reid on March 4, 2000, and will not be available for his mandatory WBC title defense.''

Translation: The WBC will shortly order Oscar De La Hoya and Derrell Coley to fight for the vacant title early next year.

Trinidad, in the meantime, doesn't seem terribly disturbed by this latest development.

``If we have to leave (the WBC title), we'll leave it,'' he told newspapers in his native Puerto Rico Wednesday. The Trinidad-Reid match announced for March 4 may face problems. For one thing, Las Vegas is already booked out for two NASCAR races that weekend. For another, HBO disputes Reid's claim that he is a television free agent and says it still has him under contract.

''I told you so''

The fate of New York junior middleweight Stephan Johnson, who lies near death in a New Jersey hospital, should in itself be enough to convince U.S. legislators of the folly of their ways.   Johnson, it turns out, was under medical suspension in Canada when he entered the ring against Paul Vaden on last Saturday night's Michael Grant-Andrew Golota card in Atlantic City, but apparently slipped through the cracks.   This tragedy is precisely the sort of occurrence Sen. John McCain intends to prevent with his Muhammad Ali Boxing Bill.

Trainer Kenny Woods said he had urged Johnson to retire following the April 14 knockout loss to Fitzroy Vanderpool in Toronto.

Consolation for Ruiz

Chelsea's John Ruiz, who had challenged Grant earlier this month just before the 6-foot-7 giant surged ahead in the Lewis sweepstakes, instead gets former contender Jade Scott, whom he will face on a Dec. 11 Showtime telecast.

Happy Birthday, Boone Pultz.