Boxing: British judge still in glare

THE CONTROVERSIAL judge Larry O'Connell may have to answer questions about his handling of another contest, which took place a week before the Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield fight at Madison Square Garden.

O'Connell, 60, may be called before the British Boxing Board of Control to talk about his refereeing of a Commonwealth title bout in London on 6 March. The incident happened at the Elephant and Castle Leisure Centre when Kofi Jantuah of Ghana defeated Gilbert Eastman of Battersea in the 11th round.

Afterwards Eastman, who was exhausted, was given oxygen in the ring and then taken to a waiting ambulance on a stretcher and ferried to Charing Cross hospital. He was not seriously hurt, but it was felt by some observers that the fight had been stopped too late.

The procedure when problems arise is for the matter to be raised before the Referees' Committee of the Board of Control. In certain cases, the Board themselves insist on discussing the incident with the official.

However, if a hearing takes place in this case, it is unlikely to affect O'Connell's career. He has already been given tangible support by the Board, who have appointed him to referee a British light-middleweight title fight between Ensley Bingham of Manchester and Essex's Nicky Thurbin at the Albert Hall on 3 April.

Frank Warren, promoting the show, has welcomed the appointment. "While I disagreed with the scoring of the Lewis fight, I fully respect his scoring ability and have never, and would never, question his honesty and integrity. Larry is one of the handful of world-class officials we are lucky to have and I feel the criticism he has come under is a disgrace."

O'Connell said he was surprised when he discovered his 115-115 scoreline. "My heart sank," he said. He and the American judge Eugenia Williams strenuously denied any suggestion of outside influence.

O'Connell was a world-class amateur boxer and has been a licensed Board of Control referee since the 1970s. He has officiated in some 40 world title contests since 1986.