Maradona prepares for a fight

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Diego Maradona's "hand of God" will need more divine inspiration when the Argentinian goes into the ring with the former world flyweight champion, Santos Laciar, next month.

A newspaper in Buenos Aires has reported that the Maradona will fight Laciar in a three-round exhibition contest in Cordoba on 3 April.

For the first two rounds, both men will wear head protection which will be discarded in the final round.

During his preparations for the 1994 World Cup finals - from which he was expelled for drug-taking - Maradona often boxed against retired fighters in a Buenos Aires gymnasium, and while playing for Napoli in the 1980s he also fought against junior light-middleweight champion Patrizio Oliva in an exhibition.

Maradona, 35, is playing for the Argentinian club Boca Juniors, but has agreed to the fight as part of the celebrations to mark the 15th anniversary of Laciar winning the world title against South Africa's Peter Mathebula in Johannesburg.

A referee was beaten and knocked out in a dressing room incident after awarding a controversial penalty in a Russian Premier League match between Dynamo Moscow and Spartak Vladikavkaz, a Russian newspaper reported yesterday.

A spokesman for the Russian League said an incident had occurred involving the referee after Sunday's match and would be discussed by a disciplinary committee on 2 April.

The spokesman declined to give any details and officials alleged to have been involved in the incident could not be reached for comment.

The Sports Express daily said the referee, Yury Chebotaryov, was bundled into Dynamo's dressing-room by a club official after the match, which had ended in a 1-1 draw. He was then insulted, threatened by the official and knocked down by an unidentified person, the newspaper said, adding Chebotaryov lost consciousness for a time.

"I was lying on the floor for some time," the paper quoted Chebotaryov as saying, adding that the official again threatened him after he was knocked down. Officials at Dynamo could not be reached for comment.

Chebotaryov had awarded league leaders Spartak a penalty in the 45th minute for shirt-pulling which allowed Spartak to earn a point in the 1-1 draw.