London-bound King rings the first bell

Inside Lines
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The Independent Online

Don King is unwell. The world's richest and most influential boxing promoter has been bed-ridden following a fall. Not from grace, as he has hardly ever been there, but from suspected heart problems. Those who have crossed him will be surprised that he actually has one. However, his indisposition is unlikely to prevent his ringside presence at London's York Hall on 12 February, a small-hall occasion but one which will finally give him a toehold in British boxing. The bill features the 70-year-old King's newly-signed British heavyweight champion Danny Williams, who will be defending his British and Commonwealth titles against the little-known Keith Long. King does not hold a licence to promote in this country, but the tournament will be staged by London-based TKO Promotions in association with the self-styled Don of boxing, and will be televised by the BBC. This is expected to be the first of a series of promotions in which the BBC will be collaborating with the controversial promoter. King has a three-year deal with the 28-year-old Williams, who won his first fight under his management in the US recently. Much seems to have been going on behind the scenes between King and the BBC. The British promoter Frank Warren accused BBC representatives of "tapping up" Williams after the fighter had publicly declared his intention of renewing his contract with Warren's Sports Network organisation. Williams said he switched to King "because he can deliver the big ones for me". King has also signed another Briton, the world middleweight title contender Howard Eastman, who is also now likely to featured on BBC telecasts.

Thanks a million from the mighty Quinn

Those players taking part in Niall Quinn's testimonial match at the Stadium of Light on 14 May will get a surprise when they open the traditional brown envelopes handed out after the game. No crisp notes, cheque or Harrods vouchers. And certainly no Rolex watches, as doled out by Dennis Wise when he trousered the odd tax-free bob or two from his own benefit. Quinn is simply enclosing a lettter from a child in the underdeveloped world whose education will be sponsored by the player's participation in the match between Sunderland and a Republic of Ireland X1. He hopes it will be the start of a pen palship between player and child. "When they walk away from the stadium I hope the players will realise I have given them something far more valuable than another piece of crystal," he says. Quinn himself will be donating the entire proceeds of the match, estimated around £1m, to children's hospitals in the North-east and his native Dublin as a thank-you gesture for the lifestyle the game has afforded him. A big man in every sense of the word is the 6ft 5in Sunderland striker. More like him and football's image could be beautiful again.

Rope a dope not in dispute

Notably absent when UK Sport unveiled their new zero-tolerance crackdown on drugs cheats last week were UK Athletics, whose handling of some cases involving a number of prominent athletes has been the subject of some controversy. Several other leading sports bodies were represented and indicated willingness to co-operate with new measures which include encouraging competitors to "blow the whistle" on colleagues they suspect of being juiced up, and the permanent withdrawal of Lottery funding or both. The measures are worthy, and timely, but one hopes that more use could be made of the valuable Sports Dispute Resolution Panel to short-circuit lengthy and costly court cases.

Old footballers need never die, or even fade away. There's a new lease of life to be found by hitting the net. Or the website, to be more precise. One launched down in the West Country is proving to be a boon for those who thought their best playing days were behind them, as well as those who have realised they are not going to make it into the big-time.

TheMixer.co.uk, brainchild of one Mike Swift, computer expert pal of the Dorchester FC manager Mark Morris, is a revolutionary means for players to find new clubs, particularly in non-league football. It is now running at 40,000 hits and has some 200 players from all over the country and as far away as New Zealand registered, and ready for a game. "There are lots of part-time players on the move because they are changing jobs and this is the ideal way for them to find a new team, " says Morris, whose own club have offered trials to several of them. No doubt there's a few unemployed managers who might be getting on line, too.

Apparently the Chinese think we are at least as clever as them when it comes to putting on a sporting show. And even better at funding it.

So much so that a six-strong delegation from the host nation for the 2008 Olympics are here studying the way we go about investing in sport. The Chinese, guests of UK Sport, are said to be looking specifically at how we fund our sport "and major competitions such as the Olympics and world championships", as part of an exchange programme. No doubt they will be keen to see how Lottery funding works as they are setting up one of their own to help pay for the Beijing Olympics. But somehow we doubt if Wembley and Picketts Lock will be on their itinerary.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

We were just a little bit adroit up front and lost two points. Bobby Robson, as ever the master of the malaprop... I am not a role model or Mr Politically Correct. Mike Tyson makes the understatement of the decade... I only need to call her to say the curtains aren't hanging straight and within an hour someone is at the door to do the job. An undomesticated Ruud van Nistelrooy on the efficiency of Sir Alex Ferguson's secretary... Hooligans show such an enviable passion for their sport. Kasaburo Kashiwagi, mayor of Awaji, England's World Cup base camp in Japan.

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