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Panel To Look At Fight Decision


A grand jury is investigating the disputed draw in the heavyweight title fight between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield.

The panel will issue subpoenas and hear testimony about the judging of Saturday night's bout at Madison Square Garden, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Barbara Thompson declined to discuss what illegalities, if any, Morgenthau thinks could be involved.

One source close to the investigation, who asked not to be identified, said: "We could be looking at tampering or illegal payments. Then again, maybe we're looking at lousy judging, which is not a crime."

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer will offer Morgenthau's investigators "any and all assistance in their attempt to pursue a criminal case," Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp said.

Spitzer, who worked for Morgenthau for six years, canceled a public hearing for Friday involving many of the principals in the fight Lewis was widely believed to have won.

Among those who had been scheduled to attend were promoter Don King and judge Eugenia Williams, the IBF judge who had Holyfield winning.

Holyfield is the IBF and WBA heavyweight champion. Lewis of Britain holds the WBC title.

Another hearing, scheduled for Thursday in Manhattan by the state Senate Committee on Investigations, will go forward, according to its chairman, state Sen. Roy Goodman of Manhattan.

Among those to appear are King and Dino Duva, Lewis' American promoter; Bob Lee, the IBF president; Arthur Mercante Jr., the bout's referee; and Williams.

Testifying by phone will be Larry O'Connell of England, the WBC judge who scored the fight a draw; Stanley Christodoulou of South Africa, the WBA judge who declared Lewis the winner; and WBC president Jose Sulaiman.

Goodman said his hearing will focus on the judging of Saturday's fight, the relationships between the sanctioning bodies and the boxing industry and health issues involving fighters.

"We'll really be taking a helicopter trip over all of the terrain of big-time boxing and whether there were improprieties in this fight," Goodman said.

The New York State Athletic Commission is also investigating the fight.

U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who sat ringside at the bout, said Wednesday that state athletic commissions must take the lead in reforming professional boxing and not wait for the federal government to step in.

He added that meaningful nationwide reforms might result from the dispute surrounding the bout and the four investigations it has prompted.

For a start, he said state athletic commissions should appoint all ringside officials at bouts and not give international sanctioning bodies the opportunity to place potentially biased judges at a fight.

"State commissioners should not surrender any of their authority to sanctioning organizations or promoters," McCain said in a letter to Spitzer. "When they do, boxers are subject to manipulation and the public is cheated."

McCain has been working with a task force of state attorneys general, headed by Spitzer, to develop federal legislation to reform boxing that has been named for Muhammad Ali.

McCain said boxing is rife with "conflicts of interest and fraudulent practices" that contributed to the Lewis-Holyfield draw.

"The best outcome of the Holyfield-Lewis bout would be a complete overhaul of boxing industry abuses in America," he said.

Lee, the IBF president, defended the work of Williams, the judge his organization selected for the bout.

"I am sure they aren't going to find anything irregular at all," he said. "It is a subjective viewing of a fight and you can't tell these judges what to see or what not to see. All I tell them is, `Do the best you can.'"

Also Wednesday, two state legislators, Sen. John DeFrancisco and Assemblyman Paul Tokasz, filed similar bills to require that judges' scores be posted after every round in New York to give others an idea of which fighter is ahead.

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