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If Nothing Else, She Beats Don King to Center Stage

It’s not unusual to see a fight break out between boxers at a news conference.

It is unusual to see one that wasn’t staged as a publicity stunt.

How do I know that the brawl between Lucia Rijker and Christy Martin on Monday at the L.A. Boxing Club wasn’t choreographed?

No TV cameras were in position to film it for the evening news.

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You have to figure Don King has seen everything in the sport. But he was so stunned when he saw Rijker and Martin rolling around on the floor that his hair was standing on end. Seriously, if he had arranged the fight, don’t you think he would have made sure the camera crews were hovering over the women?

There were plenty of electronic and print reporters at the gym for David Reid’s workout. He fights Felix Trinidad Jr. on Friday night in Las Vegas, and most of us were focused on Reid when Rijker confronted Martin outside the ring.

Martin was there as part of the promotion. She fights Belinda Laracuente on the undercard. Or at least she will unless injuries sustained in Monday’s fracas prevent her from appearing. On Monday night she was considered questionable.

As for Rijker, publicist Fred Sternburg, who works for her promoter, said it was a “funny coincidence” that she was there instead of at the Hollywood gym where she usually trains. But he winked when he said it.

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“When are you back in action?” Rich Marotta asked when Rijker entered the gym.

“In a couple of minutes,” she told him.

Rijker doesn’t like Martin. You wouldn’t either if she had cost you $750,000.

That’s how much they each reportedly would have earned from a fight a couple of years ago. When you consider that Mia St. John makes $25,000 for a four-round fight and the most Martin has ever been paid is $100,000, that’s an enormous amount of money for female boxers. But Martin didn’t want any part of Rijker.

Smart woman. Although Martin, who once appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and St. John, who has appeared in Playboy, are the world’s best-known female boxers, Rijker, a former kick boxer, is easily the best.

She dropped Martin with a left hook Monday.

Later, after climbing into the ring to begin her formal workout, Martin asked for a chance first to apologize to the media.

Apologize? It was a unique experience, to see King upstaged at his own news conference.

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King was in town to hype Trinidad versus Reid, but the promoter couldn’t stop promoting Trinidad versus Oscar De La Hoya. . . .

Now that De La Hoya has emerged with a seventh-round knockout from his prelim against Derrell Coley, all that stands between a two-fight, $80-million deal between De La Hoya and Trinidad is Reid. . . .

De La Hoya got the better end of that bargain. He’d much rather fight Coley than Reid. But King, although lavishing praise on the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, predicted Trinidad also will advance. . . .

King said he doesn’t agree with East Coast writers who perpetuate the nickname “Chicken De La Hoya.” . . .

“I also don’t subscribe to the thinking by our Indian friends in the hills that Oscar is Running Coyote,” he said. . . .

But he added that De La Hoya can prove his courage only by relinquishing his argument about how many pounds he and Trinidad should weigh and agreeing to the fights. . . .

“Oscar will get knocked out,” King said. “But at least he will have redeemed himself and repudiated the notion that he is Carl Lewis or Jesse Owens.”

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Darryl Strawberry always has an excuse when he relapses. . . .

I don’t know what it could be this time. Everything seemed to be going his way. He had beaten cancer, was excited because his wife is expecting a child and he had been guaranteed a role as the Yankee designated hitter. . . .

Let’s hope that he uses the time he now has free to check himself into a rehab center and stay for as long as it takes. . . .

How much of a relief do you think Darren Clarke’s victory over Tiger Woods on Sunday was to their fellow pros? Tour players, inspired by the ultra-fit Woods’ success, had been beating a path to the exercise trailer after rounds. Now they can return to the more traditional 19th hole. . . .

Clarke said he is extraordinarily strong in his right arm, from lifting pints of ale.

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While wondering if anyone really believes the game tonight between the Lakers and Portland is merely one of 82, I was thinking: It will be won or lost by Shaquille O’Neal at the free-throw line, or by Kobe Bryant’s defense against Damon Stoudamire, or by the Trail Blazer bench, nobody ever promised the Lakers a Rose Garden.

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Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com.


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