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BOXING / EARL GUSTKEY : Steroid Accusation Gets a Rise Out of Holyfield

If Larry Holmes wanted to get under Evander Holyfield’s skin during the pre-fight buildup to their June 19 bout at Caesars Palace, he succeeded. He brought up the S-word.

Steroids.

When Holmes raised the subject during a recent interview, the heavyweight champion’s response was eight typewritten lines. Eight lines is a personal high for Holyfield. He didn’t even have eight lines to say when that Yugoslav referee threw him out of the 1984 Olympics.

Or after he had flattened Buster Douglas and won the heavyweight championship.

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There have been whispers of Holyfield and steroids for several years, or ever since his body made the transition from string-bean light-heavyweight in 1984 to its present configuration.

He has heatedly denied using body-building drugs, and instead credits intensive, high-tech conditioning and weight training.

So when the champion was asked what he thought of Holmes’ comments, he said:

“They should test for steroids. If you want to catch someone, why say anything? Just go and test them. I’m ready. I never took steroids, and it doesn’t bother me to take the test.

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“Larry should realize there are a lot of kids who may think, ‘Maybe Larry Holmes is telling (the truth). Maybe Evander Holyfield does use steroids. Then it must be OK for me to use them.’

“That’s wrong. . . . Let’s take the test and put this behind us. It’s an irresponsible statement for him to make.”

Holmes also brought up the O-word.

Old.

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“Anybody can excel at a certain age,” said Holmes, who is 42. Holyfield is 29.

“John McEnroe might not be able to compete in tennis with 21-year-olds when they play 3 1/2 hours in the hot sun. I think it’s the wear and tear. “But there’s a lack of competition in the heavyweight division. . . . If there was Kenny Nortons, Joe Fraziers, George Foremans (young), Ron Lyles, Jerry Quarrys and all those guys around, I wouldn’t have even thought of coming back. I’d have been crazy.”

Holyfield, Holmes said, doesn’t hit hard enough.

“I saw him hit George Foreman with shot after shot, and George didn’t even have one bruise,” he said.

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“I saw him hit Bert Cooper with uppercut after uppercut, left hook after left hook . . . he didn’t hurt him. I’m just going to bite down on my mouthpiece, grit my teeth and go at him.

“The Larry Holmes of today would have beaten the Larry Holmes of yesterday. It’s because I have more patience. I used to throw 80 to 90 punches a round. Now I throw 50, but I land 40 of them.”

Holmes, who defended the heavyweight title 20 times between 1978 and 1985, fought once during a 1986-1991 retirement, suffering a four-round knockout by Mike Tyson in 1988. He began an improbable comeback in 1991 and has won six in a row.

Then Holmes upset unbeaten Ray Mercer in February. Holyfield, Holmes said, is a lesser opponent.

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“I don’t see Holyfield being better than Mercer. If they would fight, I would bet Mercer would win.”

The Forum boxing staff and Bob Arum’s Top Rank group have begun talks on the long-awaited Humberto Gonzalez-Michael Carbajal fight, for November or December. The site would be the Forum, Phoenix or Las Vegas.

Gonzalez-Carbajal would be a matchup of boxing’s two dominant little men.

Carbajal (24-0) is the International Boxing Federation’s light-flyweight champion and is rated No. 1 in the world by Boxing Illustrated. Gonzalez (32-1), World Boxing Council light-flyweight champion from Mexico City, is ranked No. 4 by Boxing Illustrated.

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The proposed meeting hinges on both boxers winning their next fights--Gonzalez won Sunday in Seoul--and the healing of Carbajal’s right hand. Carbajal, 1988 Olympic silver medalist at light-flyweight, has had hand problems since he turned pro. The most recent caused him to pull off the undercard of the June 19 Holyfield-Holmes bout.

“A hand specialist told Michael his bone structure was too slender to be punching so hard, so we’ve got him on a hand-forearm development exercise program,” said Carbajal’s brother-manager, Danny Carbajal.

“He’s doing four sets of 60 fingertip pushups every day.”

Boxing Notes

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Jose Sulaiman, president-for-life of the WBC, is unhappy with Sports Illustrated’s Pat Putnam for noting that the WBC’s “sanction fee” for Evander Holyfield and his fight with Larry Holmes will be $450,000. Wrong, says Sulaiman. It’s only $280,000, he writes in an open letter to boxing writers. Further, Sulaiman says that Holyfield has failed to pay “one single dollar” in sanction fees for his last two fights. Here’s a question for Sulaiman: Why should Holyfield--or any other boxer--have to pay you anything?

HBO is trying to arrange a Tommy Hearns-Bobby Czyz fight for Czyz’s cruiserweight championship. . . . Steve English, assistant executive officer for the California Athletic Commission, is a candidate for executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. He would replace the late Chuck Minker, who had the job for seven years. Two other candidates are Southland boxing statistician Dean Lohuis and former California assistant executive officer Bill Barros.

Joe Sayatovich, manager of junior-middleweight champion Terry Norris, is already on the Olympic-year recruiting trail. He has invited four boxers who lost at last week’s Western Olympic trials in Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., to his mountain training camp in eastern San Diego County. He won’t identify the boxers, but says the group includes a heavyweight, two middleweights and a welterweight.

Renovation continues at the Olympic Auditorium. Owner Jack Needleman has installed a new electrical system and entire sections of old, warped seats are coming out. About 8,000 new orange theater seats have been ordered. The old boxing palace also will get a new roof. A November re-opening is hoped for by promoter Dan Goossen.

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Former boxer Dio Colome’s lawsuit against the state of California has been continued to Sept. 14 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The suit challenges the state’s required neurological exams for boxers, which Colome contends deprived him of his right to earn a living.

Bill Cayton’s comeback-trail heavyweight, Tommy Morrison, is training at the U.S. Air Force Academy for a fight with Joe Hipp at Reno on June 27. Cayton says Morrison may get a Sept. 18 date with either Alex Stewart or Carl Williams. There is also talk, he says, of a Frank Bruno-Morrison fight in London.


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