Forget blood and sweat; big fight ends in tears

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The Independent Online
For anyone sitting ringside at the Las Vegas Hilton early yesterday morning, British time, it was an unnerving spectacle.

Big boys are not supposed to cry, or so we are told. But Oliver McCall knocked that old chestnut on the head when, weeping buckets, he apparently had some sort of nervous breakdown and stopped fighting Lennox Lewis for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world.

Never has there been a more bizarre end to a boxing bout. The first sign that something was wrong with McCall, an American with a sorry history of drug abuse, came in the second round. Lewis caught him with a sharp left jab and followed up with some thunderous blows. McCall's response was to drop his arms and whoop at Lewis.

A round later, he burst into tears and turned his back on his opponent. At the bell he refused to go back to his corner and instead spent the interval striding around the ring, grinning dementedly.

It was deeply disturbing stuff. In the fourth, McCall repeatedly dropped his hands and walked away from a perplexed Lewis. The referee, Mills Lane, waved him on, so Lewis continued to throw punches at McCall, who just stood there.

Incredibly, he did not succumb, but at the end of the round, Lane led him to his corner and ordered him to sit down. McCall told his corner team he did not want to go back out, then changed his mind.

Once Lewis started to hit him again, he still made no attempt to fight back and Lane stopped the contest. A crying McCall then ran from the ring, ignoring his promoter, Don King. The Nevada authorities immediately said the purse of around $3m (pounds 1.9m) would be suspended, pending an inquiry.

At a press conference without McCall afterwards, all the doubts surfaced about whether the boxer, who has been in rehabilitation since being arrested in December, had been physically and mentally fit to fight.

"All I can think is that withdrawal symptoms suddenly caught up with him," said George Benton, his trainer.

Others accused King of pushing his boxer into the ring too early. King's response was to turn on McCall, claiming he conned the WBC into letting the fight go ahead: "He bullshitted everybody and we're mad about that."

n Prince Naseem Hamed added the IBF world featherweight title to his WBO crown when he overcame Tom "Boom Boom" Johnson at the London Arena last night.

Hamed finished off Johnson with a right uppercut after two minutes 27 seconds of the eighth round when the referee stopped the fight, to give the remarkable young boxer his 25th straight victory as a pro.

Reports, Sport, page 24