BOXING: Tyson's spectre casts shadow

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The Independent Online

Rather than world heavyweight champions, the winners of the two crowns which will be fought for in Las Vegas tonight could just as well be dubbed title babysitters.

Many believe the fighters who take the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council belts will be just looking after them before they are claimed by the true champion, Mike Tyson, recently released from prison and flush from signing a six-fight, multi-million dollar deal.

In the first match, Tony Tucker will fight Bruce Seldon for the WBA crown, then the former champion, Larry Holmes, will try to take Oliver McCall's WBC title. Holmes, now 45, first won the heavyweight title from Ken Norton in 1978, and was champion for seven years.

There are few boxers craftier than Holmes, who appears to have trained very hard for the shorter, stockier McCall. However, cunning cannot be exchanged for years -McCall, the favourite, is only 29. "If I lose this fight, I'll quit right away," Holmes said.

If Holmes wins, he will not hang around if he sees Tyson coming to get the title, but will probably use his victory to try to get a fight with George Foreman. Holmes candidly says he wants no match with Tyson, who in 1988 crushed him in the fourth round.

McCall, a former sparring partner for Tyson, won the WBC title by stopping Lennox Lewis in the second round last September. He has a rock-solid chin and will try to get inside Holmes' famous jab, looking to end the fight early.

Tucker was the man turned down as an opponent by Foreman, who was stripped of his WBA title as a result. The 35-year-old is a seasoned heavyweight campaigner; he beat James "Buster" Douglas to win the International Boxing Federation title - only to lose it 62 days later to Tyson, making Tucker's reign the shortest in heavyweight history.

However, there are questions as to whether Tucker, who has been fighting as a professional for 15 years and had 206 amateur fights, has lost his legs and reflexes. But while Seldon, a perfectly proportioned 28-year- old who can change leads quickly and has good power in both hands, doubts remain over his stamina and chin.