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Foreman Promoters Launch Protest

Don’t start planning that retirement dinner for George Foreman just yet.

Jeff Wald and Irving Azoff, Foreman’s promoters, have launched a vigorous campaign to try to overturn Foreman’s controversial loss to Shannon Briggs last Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J.

After two of the three judges ruled that Foreman had lost a 12-round decision--the third scored the fight a draw--the 48-year-old Foreman, a two-time

heavyweight champion, said he was hanging up his gloves and giving up his quest for a third reign.

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Not so fast, said Wald.

“Something is wrong,” he said of the decision. “On the good side, those judges are incompetent. On the other side, they are corrupt.”

The judges in question are Calvin Claxton, who scored the fight 116-112 for Briggs, and Lawrence Layton, who had Briggs winning, 117-113. Steve Weisfeld had it 114-114.

Wald and Azoff have sent letters of protest to New Jersey Gov. Todd Whitman, the state attorney general, the chairman of the state’s Casino Control Commission and the chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.

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Wald and Azoff say they have polled 100 boxing people, from writers to trainers, and have found nobody who thinks Briggs won. They also say that the odds, which opened strongly in favor of Foreman, dropped suspiciously just before the fight.

They say that Larry Hazzard, chairman of the New Jersey boxing commission, has a “vendetta” against them. They point out that Briggs is represented by Marc Roberts and cite rumors that Hazzard is a shareholder in Roberts’ company.

“Larry Hazzard thinks he’s running a fiefdom,” Wald said.

But most of the anger is directed at the two judges who declared Briggs the winner. Neither Claxton nor Layton has ever judged a championship fight sanctioned by any of the three major boxing organizations--the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Assn. or the International Boxing Federation.

“Guys blow calls,” Wald said. “But these two guys scored this fight like this and did it almost the same. You’ve heard of shows about America’s dumbest criminals? This falls right in that category.

“We are not impugning this kid [Briggs]. But this fight wasn’t close. The kid backed up for 12 rounds.”

Hazzard said the furor was “the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard.”

And what is the reaction of Foreman himself to the protest?

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“George is taking the high road and letting us handle it,” Wald said.

He added that the uproar has generated a shrug by many, along with that standard retort, “That’s boxing.”

But coming from the music-entertainment business, Wald and Azoff say they aren’t willing to settle for that.

“That’s not acceptable to us,” Wald said. “Boxing is the last bastion of the Wild West. There are no rules. I come from the music business, which is not a walk in the park. But boxing is in a league of its own.”

Wald says he and Azoff plan to hire a private investigator to look into the background of the judges.

He said a Foreman-Briggs rematch might be the solution.

If that happens, don’t look for it to happen in Atlantic City. But then, if Wald and Azoff really believed Hazzard had it in for them, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by staying away from there in the first place.

GIVE ME A BREAK

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The controversy that swirled around the firing of Oscar De La Hoya’s latest trainer, Emanuel Steward, began when Steward invited De La Hoya to attend the Evander Holyfield-Michael Moorer heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Joel De La Hoya, Oscar’s father, and Mike Hernandez, his advisor, took a dim view of De La Hoya’s leaving his mountain retreat in Big Bear for the bright lights of Vegas in the midst of training for his title defense next Saturday against Wilfredo Rivera in Atlanta City.

“It was something different for me,” De La Hoya said. “Something my father and [Hernandez] are not used to.

“I need these things. I need to go off the mountain and forget about boxing for a while. I need to go play golf and not focus too much on boxing. It’s very stressful.”

De La Hoya has usually been content to let others speak and make important decisions for him. That may be changing.

“I am my own man,” De La Hoya insisted. “I call my own shots. I say when I will fight. These people [those close to him] have to understand that this is my fifth fight this year. I have to live my own life, follow my own instincts so that I will not get tired of boxing.”

QUICK JABS

Next up for De La Hoya, should he beat Rivera as expected, will be Patrick Charpentier, the WBC’s No. 1 welterweight contender, in February in Las Vegas, then Terry Norris in Vegas in June. . . . Norris will defend his WBC super-welterweight championship next Saturday against Keith Mullings as part of the undercard of the De La Hoya fight. . . . Also on the card will be IBF junior-middleweight champion Raul Marquez’s defense against Yory Boy Campas. . . . Unbeaten heavyweight Ed Mahone (14-0-1) goes for his 15th straight knockout Monday night at the Pond against Eric Curry (22-3, 13 knockouts) in the 10-round main event. . . . In the semi-main event, Isidro Chino Garcia (15-0, four knockouts) and Danny Nunez (26-3, 19 knockouts) fight for the North American Boxing Organization flyweight championship.

CALENDAR

Monday--Ed Mahone vs. Eric Curry, heavyweights; Isidro Chino Garcia vs. Danny Nunez, NABO flyweight championship, the Pond, 7:15.


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