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Boxing: Maloney wants ban on judge

FRANK MALONEY returned to Britain last night and declared that Larry O'Connell should never be allowed to judge another world title fight. Maloney, the manager of the British heavyweight Lennox Lewis, was still furious about the World Boxing Council champion's draw with Evander Holyfield in their world heavyweight title unification bout at Madison Square Garden, New York, on Saturday night.

Maloney believes that the 60-year-old O'Connell, the WBC judge, who is British, deprived Lewis of the undisputed title when he scored the fight a 115-115 draw and O'Connell admitted yesterday: "I was wrong." The World Boxing Association judge, Stan Christodoulou of South Africa, scored the bout 116-113 in favour of Lewis while the American judge, Eugenia Williams, of the International Boxing Federation, gave it to Holyfield, the WBA and IBF champion, 115-113.

At Heathrow Airport, London, Maloney said: "Larry O'Connell should have his licence taken off him. He should never be allowed to judge another fight ever again... If Holyfield won three rounds he was lucky. In the eyes of the world Lennox Lewis is the uncrowned undisputed heavyweight champion of the world."

Lewis did not join his manager on the flight back to England. He has stayed in America and will return later in the week. Maloney said his fighter's mood was upbeat and they will now look forward to a rematch with Holyfield, which they hope will be in Britain, later in the year.

It emerged yesterday that the presidents of boxing's three primary sanctioning bodies had decided at ringside on Saturday to order a rematch. The International Boxing Federation president, Bob Lee, said yesterday that he and his counterparts in the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association would relax their rules so that the two champions can fight again within six months.

"This fight didn't do what we wanted it to do - produce a unified heavyweight champion," Lee said, adding that the decision to order a rematch was not the result of widespread condemnation of the decision in both Britain and the United States.

"Right after the fight we were standing around ringside, talking and chatting, and [WBA president] Gilberto Mendoza, Jose Sulaiman [WBC] and myself got together," Lee said. "We each agreed that... within six months these guys should fight again."

Lee refused, however, to criticise an unpopular decision. "I don't consider it a questionable decision, I consider it controversial." Lee said. "It ended in controversy and a rematch will provide a resolution."

Most of the criticism of the judges in America was directed not at O'Connell but at Williams, who had been nominated by the IBF. But Lee defended his choice.

"People have been dumping on Jean Williams. She does a good job, she's always done a good job. She does world class title bouts not just for this organisation but for others.

"I settled on her because I thought she would bring a fresh new face and she had done enough to be considered. All three had different scores and saw the fight differently."

O'Connell yesterday admitted that his heart sank when the fight result was announced as a draw - but he denied reports that he had changed his mind on his own scoring.

The 60-year-old from Kent, who described his life had been "one hell" since the fight, said: "I would not change my mind. I did it as I saw it.

"When a fight is over you get gut feelings, and my heart sank because it was a draw."

"Judged on the weight of opinion, I would say I was wrong. But I did what I thought was right at the time. I can't be more honest than that."

"People are so wound up by this. Lewis is the epitome of what is good about boxing and good about sport. I just picked it as I saw it."

Judge Eugenia Williams scored the fifth round 10-9 in favour of Holyfield and not as reported yesterday.

Fight rumpus, page 5