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When Topic Is Akinwande, Arum Is in Corner With King

Imagine Mike Piazza declaring he still bleeds Dodger blue, Al Davis as the keynote speaker at Marcus Allen’s retirement dinner or David Letterman telling his viewers what a great show Jay Leno has.

Unimaginable?

No more so than what occurred here Wednesday: Bob Arum was defending Don King.

Honest.

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The subject was last weekend’s fiasco in New York, where Henry Akinwande, scheduled to fight Evander Holyfield, World Boxing Assn., and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion, had to drop out after a blood test revealed that Akinwande had hepatitis B.

A second blood test revealed that heavyweight Ray Mercer, also on the Madison Square Garden card, had hepatitis B as well. And a third test showed that Maria Nieves-Garcia, scheduled to fight in a women’s bout, was in her 21st week of pregnancy.

Blame for the collapse of that card was heaped on King. With ticket sales going poorly and the pay-per-view sales not much better, conspiracy theories were rife. King had somehow gotten doctors, laboratories and the New York State Athletic Commission together to pull off hepatitisgate.

Sure, and perhaps the FBI, the CIA and the Mafia were involved too.

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King certainly has been involved in his share of questionable dealings. In fact, he is on trial in New York for insurance fraud.

But suggesting he engineered that outrageous sequence gives him credit for far more power than he has.

Would he have pulled off such a scheme if he could have and it was in his best financial interests? Hard to argue with that.

But could he have pulled it off? Absolutely not.

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“The promoter gets blamed for somehow staging every bad deal,” Arum said. “You can’t blame King, and I never thought I would be saying that.”

There is no longer any doubt that Akinwande has hepatitis. That doubt, first raised by Akinwande’s own manager, J.C. Courreges, was erased when a second test also came back positive.

So who, if anyone, is to blame?

A good place to start would be the New York Athletic Commission. Commission officials maintain they badgered the Akinwande camp for test results, but didn’t receive them until the day before the fight.

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Wait a minute. Who’s in charge here?

If the commission can require blood tests for hepatitis, why can’t that commission set a reasonable deadline of several weeks before the fight for getting those results?

“We always go through this with tests,” Arum said. “We tell the managers to send in results and they keep telling us they will, but we have to keep asking and asking.

“Then, they want to send them to us. What good does that do? We can’t read test results. We’re not doctors. Send them to the commission. The commission should require results four to six weeks before a fight.”

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Right, while there is still time to find a substitute if the results are bad, save the fight card and save boxing from more such fiascoes.

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Add Arum: If his defense of King might be considered admirable, there is absolutely nothing admirable about his continuing feud with boxing writer Michael Katz of the New York Daily News. It has turned extremely ugly.

Katz is Arum’s biggest critic, labeling welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya Chicken De La Hoya because of the failure of both the fighter and Arum, his promoter, to meet the best opponents in De La Hoya’s weight division.

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But in a recent article in the International Boxing Digest, Katz, who is Jewish, went further and called Arum, who is also Jewish, a hypocrite--actually using a far more derogatory term--for passing himself off as observant while scheduling a fight on the night of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

Arum, maintaining that television dictates the dates, sued Katz, and the writer had to raise $25,000 for legal aid.

At a De La Hoya press conference Thursday in El Paso, Arum read aloud to the crowd a story by Katz, who seemingly questioned whether there is a single book store in El Paso, apparently questioning the literacy and intelligence of the populace. In reality, Katz was referring to a previous article in the New York Times. Katz himself gave no credence to the report.

Nevertheless, the crowd was inflamed, local television picked up the story and Katz is fearful for his safety tonight when 50,000 fans are expected at the De La Hoya-Patrick Charpentier fight at the Sun Bowl.

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This is an old Arum technique. He stirred emotions against television analyst Larry Merchant after Merchant had questioned the appropriateness of mariachi music at a previous De La Hoya fight, where there was no music for his opponent, Pernell Whitaker, who was then the champion.

Enough already. Arum is fanning flames that may consume innocent people. Drop the torch, Bob, and the lawsuit. Stick to boxing.

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Add Oscar: Middleweight David Reid (9-0, six knockouts), the only American gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics, takes on his toughest challenger to date when he fights former two-time champion Simon Brown (47-9, 34 knockouts) next Saturday in a 10-round junior middleweight bout at the Apollo on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia.

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Also on the card will be IBF lightweight champion Shane Mosley (27-0, 25 knockouts), who will be defending his title against Wilfredo Ruiz (24-3, 19 knockouts).

Mosley has the same record as De La Hoya and both are from Southern California, but there is no comparison in public awareness and earning power.

Part of that is because Arum has done a masterful job of promoting De La Hoya and picking opponents who are well over the hill or in serious danger of never even getting to the hill.

But if Mosley keeps winning--and fighting better opponents--he may yet win his battle with De La Hoya for the attention of the fans, the networks and those who pay the big bucks.

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Coming attractions: America Presents, promoters of Reid, will stage its first pay-per-view card July 11 at San Antonio’s Alamodome.

Called the festival of champions, the event will feature seven former champions. Azumah Nelson and Jesse James Leija, who have gone 1-1-1 in three meetings, will fight for the International Boxing Assn., lightweight title. Gabriel Ruelas will fight Troy Dorsey in a super-featherweight nontitle bout. Tracy Harris Patterson will fight Goyo Vargas for the IBA junior lightweight crown. And super-lightweight Miguel Angel Gonzalez will take on Theo Elmore, the only one of the bunch who has never been a champion, in a nontitle fight.


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