Boxing: Smith ready to contest board ban

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(First Edition)

THE FORMER world heavyweight champion, James 'Bonecrusher' Smith, threatened yesterday to take legal action against British boxing officials for barring him from fighting in Britain.

'I may not be allowed to take on a boxer in a British boxing ring, but I can assure you that if it is necessary to fight for my rights in an English court, then I am ready, willing and able to do so,' Smith said in a statement released by his lawyers.

Smith, 41, was denied a licence to box in Britain on medical grounds last Friday, forcing him to pull out of last night's scheduled bout against the European champion, Henry Akinwande.

The British Boxing Board of Control said it was not satisfied with the results from a scan and other tests conducted on Smith, who held the World Boxing Assiciation title briefly in the mid-1980s.

In his statement, Smith said a copy of the scan taken by the British board's medical officer 'indicates there is absolutely no evidence of any abnormality to my brain whatsoever'.

Smith said that he sparred with two fighters in London last week and that everyone who watched the sessions 'will testify to the fact that I am 100 per cent fit'.

'The entire manner in which the results of other medical tests were made known to me, and the way in which I was informed of the decision to refuse me a licence, is currently under consideration by my solicitors in London,' he said.

'In the absence of clear and unequivocal explanations from both the board and (the promoter) Mickey Duff, I will be forced to take legal proceedings against them for damages to compensate me for the breach of contract and the defamatory statements that have been made about me and my ability to fight.'

The decision to ban Smith came in the wake of two lopsided defeats in Britain of American heavyweights. Jesse Ferguson was knocked out in the first round by Frank Bruno on 16 March, and the World Boxing Organsiation champion, Michael Bentt, was stopped in the seventh round by Herbie Hide three days later.

Bentt collapsed in the dressing-room after the fight and was advised not to box again because he would risk brain damage if he did so.