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BOXING Lewis fight set; Tyson wanted on undercard



Published: Mon, April 28, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bout at the Staples Center is June 21.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lennox Lewis will fight for the first time in a year, with or without Mike Tyson on the undercard.

Tyson may not be the only thing missing. Though most in boxing recognize Lewis as the heavyweight champion, his World Boxing Council title will not be at stake in the scheduled 12-round fight with Kirk Johnson.

"My linear championship is at stake. That's greater than any of the other championship belts out there," Lewis said.

"There is no higher title."

Show will go on

Lewis will face Johnson on June 21 in a match of Canadian heavyweights. Promoters and Staples Center officials also hoped to match Tyson against Oleg Maskaev, but Tyson has balked at signing a contract.

Tyson was noticeably absent at Thursday's news conference.

He was in New York, where promoter Don King reportedly was trying to woo him back into the fold as part of an attempt to settle a $100 million suit Tyson has pending against King.

"It's going to be a very successful show," promoter Gary Shaw said. "The only thing that actually changes with Mike Tyson not on the card is the price of the tickets."

Staples Center president Tim Leiweke said he had been trying for two years to get Lewis to fight in Los Angeles.

"Never mind about the other fight," Leiweke said. "This is a really big fight."

Staples plans to hold an online auction for 200 of the best seats for the bout, with bidding beginning at $3,000 for a package that would include two seats and a post-fight reception, among other perks.

But ticket prices were deliberately not announced Thursday because they would be higher with Tyson on the card. Staples reportedly paid more than $7 million to host the card, but that price included a Tyson fight.

Wants Tyson

Lewis, who retained his WBC title with an eighth-round knockout of Tyson last June, would like Tyson to join him at Staples.

"With Tyson on the card, it's definitely an added bonus," Lewis said.

The WBC isn't sanctioning Lewis' bout against Johnson because it wants him to fight Vitali Klitschko, the No. 1 contender. But the WBC says it won't strip Lewis of the title if he agrees to fight Klitschko after he fights Johnson.

There still was a possibility that Tyson, who would receive some $7 million for a undercard bout, will agree to a contract.

But the mercurial Tyson -- who claims King stole tens of millions from him -- is also listening to offers to go back to the frizzy-haired promoter, which would keep him off the card.

Tyson's suit against King is scheduled for trial in New York in September.

Lewis, who hasn't fought since stopping Tyson in Memphis, has a 40-2-1 record. Johnson is 34-1-1, with the loss coming on a disqualification for low blows in an ugly loss to then World Boxing Association champion John Ruiz last July in Las Vegas.




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