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Boxing: Holyfield to shake off the rust in title defence against Bean

EVANDER HOLYFIELD sets the ball rolling on a week of heavyweight collisions when he defends the International Boxing Federation title on 19 September against the top-ranked contender Vaughn Bean in Atlanta.

Holyfield, who will be making his first appearance in the ring since November, also holds the World Boxing Association version of the title, but will not put it on the line against Bean at the Georgia Dome in Holyfield's home town.

The champion had been scheduled to climb back into the ring in June against Britain's Henry Akinwande but that fight was called off after the challenger withdrew when tests revealed he had hepatitis.

Holyfield will be the overwhelming favourite to retain his IBF crown after two victories over the shamed Mike Tyson, who is still waiting for a decision from the Athletic Control Board in New Jersey on his application to have his licence returned following a one-year ban for biting Holyfield's ear.

Holyfield's last defence was against Michael Moorer. Bean has won 29 of his 30 professional fights but is not expected to present the champion with too many problems.

Holyfield's fight will take place seven days before Lennox Lewis defends the WBC version against Croatia's Zeljko Mavrovic in Connecticut and Herbie Hide's mandatory WBO heavyweight title defence against Germany's Willi Fischer in the Norwich Sport Village.

Members of the state Athletic Control Board have refused to say when they'll make a decision on whether to award a boxing licence to Tyson.

After emerging from a three-hour private session at the Richard J Hughes Justice Complex on Thursday night, boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard offered "no comment" several times to questions regarding a decision.

Tyson, 32, has not fought since the ear-biting incident in June 1997. Nevada regulators revoked his boxing licence and said he could reapply after one year, but Tyson opted to apply for a licence in New Jersey instead.

Hazzard, board chairman Gerald Gormley and board member Gary Shaw reviewed Tyson's application and deliberated during the 10am to 1pm closed-door meeting, said Paul Loriquet, the spokesman for the attorney general's office.

The three also reviewed written testimony from the public for and against Tyson and sought legal advice from assistant attorney general Michael Haas, who participated in the executive session.

Mark Juliano, president and CEO of Caesars Atlantic City, said that awarding Tyson a licence could have a tremendous financial impact on Atlantic City. "It would probably depend on who he fought but generally a heavyweight championship fight is the biggest draw that we do," he said.