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Judge admits mistake, says Lewis won fight
Posted: Tuesday March 16, 1999 09:53 AM
LONDON (Reuters) -- The British judge who astonished Madison Square Garden by scoring the fight between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis as a draw was quoted on Monday as saying he had probably made a mistake.
"Judged on the weight of opinion I would say I was wrong," Larry O'Connell told the London Evening Standard.
"But I did what I thought was right at the time. I can't be any more honest than that."
In a CNN/SI poll 91 percent of the participants were of the opinion that Lennox Lewis was robbed of the titles.
Boxing's bosses are attempting to salvage some credibility for the sport after Saturday's long-awaited unification heavyweight fight ended in a draw when most believed Lewis had done more than enough to win.
O'Connell, a boxing official for 23 years, denied the match had been fixed. "I'm a man of integrity and honesty and I made my decision," he was quoted as saying. "Nobody likes to give a draw because people think you are not man enough to give a result either way.
"I feel sorry for myself. I've taken so much stick. But I feel even more sorry for Lennox," O'Connell told the Standard.
The presidents of the three main professional boxing boards -- the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation -- have called for a rematch within six months in response to a chorus of accusations of foul play.
Lewis's manager Frank Maloney is considering challenging the result in court and will write to the New York district attorney and the New York State Athletic Commission asking them to intervene.
"The eyes of the world were on New York and fair play was not administered," Maloney said.
Even the staunchest supporters of American Holyfield were astonished that Britain's Lewis was not awarded the fight after landing more than twice as many punches and patently controlling the bout.
The result -- also scored as a win for Holyfield by American judge Eugenia Williams and a win for Lennox by South Africa's Stanley Christoudoulou -- drew gasps from 21,000-strong crowd.
New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani called the scoring "a travesty."
British commentators shared the general indignation. "The judges verdict was the most disgusting decision I've ever seen in boxing," Britain's former WBC heavyweight champion Frank Bruno said.
Newspapers joined the howls of criticism. "Call this lot judges. They should be put in the dock instead," the Daily Mirror said.
The Lewis camp had a firm feeling that "they had been victims of a darker plot hatched in the maze of boxing politics through which only [promoter] Don King steps with any certainty," The Guardian's John Rawling added.
The "plot" was a lucrative one, netting Holyfield $20 million and Lewis $10 million
"Lewis won the fight," British sports minister Tony Banks said. "It was a good fight and a close fight but clearly a lot of people are going to feel cheated. And frankly a rematch is absolutely essential.
"I think it also has to be in this country."
The immense problems of scheduling the bout in the first place and, above all, the huge amount of money involved do not bode well for a quick decision on where and when a rematch will be arranged.
The boxing authorities were keen to advertise the fight as unifying the sport. But Holyfield remains IBF and WBA champion while Lewis keeps his WBC crown, perpetuating boxing's sullied tradition of devalued titles and overpaid champions.
The push for a rematch could come to nothing if Holyfield, already 36 years old and visibly relieved at the result of the bout, decides to retire in the meantime."The sport needed this fight to show what it is all about -- and it has done," Panos Eliades, Lewis's promoter said. "The sport is corrupt."
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