Refusing to Leave His Corner, Page Quits

Times Staff Writer

Former heavyweight champion Greg Page, having descended to club fighting, descended a little further Thursday night at the Forum when he quit on his stool, no longer wanting any part of the great Mark Wills, a fighter who is 9-6 after the ninth-round knockout.

You might ask if it is possible to descend further. Answer: Not in this lifetime.

Page, once tabbed as Muhammad Ali's successor, has now defamed his idol by any such association, and not just by his 1-3 record since winning the title. Imagine Ali, or any champion, sitting on his stool, one round from completion of the fight. Imagine any fighter at all quitting on his stool.

Slim Robinson, Page's most recent trainer, could barely imagine it himself. "I say, 'Greg, it's the 10th round.' He says stop it, anyway."

Of course, by the time the bloated heavyweight threw in the towel, he was badly cut above the left eyelid. His Louisville Lip was swollen mightily. His head was woozy from an overhand right that sent him reeling along most of the ring ropes just a minute before. And, though he could only have guessed it at the time, he was trailing Wills on all three cards.

Also his wife, Brenda, was at ringside barking at him. Wills would go away. His wife, however, would follow him to the dressing room. "I push him as hard as I can," she said, shrugging, thinking of the job ahead.

Where Page, who held the World Boxing Assn. title as recently as a year ago, will settle is anybody's guess. But if gravity is a factor, the Positively Pendulous Page still has a way to go. His weight is always a factor, in that he has too much of it. In this Stroh's tournament fight, he weighed 242, though he disputed it as soon as it was announced, wagging his gloves.

Ringsiders looked at the flab and smiled, thinking, right, he meant he actually weighed 310.

But you know the old saying, the fatter they are, the harder they fall. And just minutes into the fight, Wills, who recently lost in his bid to win the state heavyweight title, decked him. It was not pretty. Twice Wills, who now has nine knockouts, backed Page into the ropes. Finally Page, who had been knocked down only once before in his previous 29 fights, clutched at Wills and slid all the way down in a gross embrace.

The next seven rounds, except for Page's knockdown of Wills in the second, were undistinguished, unless you like to see a heavyweight sticking his tongue out and mugging and wagging his gloves. "He has that bad habit," said Robinson, who also trains WBA heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon. "I imagine it all came from Ali, but Ali's the only one capable of doing that."

Wills, 25, who struggled workmanlike throughout, was having none of it. "I don't like a boy making fun of me," he said. "I'm trying as hard as I could."

He tried hard enough. In the ninth round, Wills, 221, cracked Page with a left hand. Page, 27, stuck out his tongue. Wills got him with a quick uppercut, causing Page to bite his tongue. That wasn't humiliation enough. He threw a huge overhand right that conked Page cold. He slid across the ropes to a turnbuckle and slid another whole side of the ring before going down.

Page made it back to his corner--and stayed there.

In the other heavyweight tournament bout, Jerry (Wimpy) Halstead, 212, of Simi Valley, in what seemed to be his non-Oklahoma City debut, proved to be a crisp puncher, stopping Steve Eisenbarth, 236, of Houston in two rounds on cuts.

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