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State Looks At Fight Decision


The state of New York began three investigations Monday into the controversial draw between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, New York's Athletic Commission and the state Senate Committee on Investigations each announced probes of the bout at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

While most observers thought Lewis clearly dominated the fight, the judges disagreed. One had IBF and WBA champion Holyfield winning, one had WBC champion Lewis winning and the third called it a draw.

The sport's three sanctioning bodies have called for a rematch within six months amid suggestions that the fight was rigged.

"Judging in an athletic contest is always a subjective process," said Spitzer, a Democrat who took office in January. "In this case, however, the judges' decision was so out of line with the reality of what happened in the ring that it has raised legitimate questions of either tampering, incompetence or both."

Spitzer scheduled a hearing for Friday in New York City to hear from the three judges and others involved in the fight, which could include promoter Don King.

King denied he had anything to do with the judges, who are selected by the sanctioning bodies and can be replaced if either fighter objects.

"My job is to present a great event and to sell tickets, not select judges or determine the outcome of the fight in any way," King said Monday in a statement.

"Anytime that you have human judgment involved in making calls, you may have a certain amount of conflict. ... These decisions involve people making subjective calls and judgments and those decisions can be extremely controversial at times."

Spitzer said he would hold the hearing in his capacity as chairman of a boxing task force within the National Association of Attorneys General. The task force is developing recommendations to reform the sport.

Spitzer's spokesman Darren Dopp said "subpoenas are a possibility" to make sure the judges appear at the hearing, "but now we are simply making an invitation."

Bob Lee, president of the International Boxing Federation, said he would be happy to cooperate with any state inquiry. He defended the judges as fair and derided those portraying the decision as "sinister."

"They are out there saying there is something wrong with it because they don't understand how these officials are selected, the training they go through and the fact that it is subjective and they all don't see the same thing," Lee said. "They are three world-class officials who all saw the fight differently, and I respect that."

The Senate Committee on Investigations also has subpoena power to compel witnesses to appear. Chairman Roy Goodman said Monday he would hold a public hearing in the near future to take testimony from the three judges, refeee Arthur Mercante Jr., the fight's promoters and others familiar with the bout.

Goodman, a republican state senator from Manhattan who attended the fight, has gotten involved in boxing before. In 1979, the Committee on Investigations helped increase safety for boxers after hearings it held on the death of fighter Willie Classen in the Felt Forum at the Garden.

Also Monday, Gov. George Pataki said he gave the state Athletic Commission a week to 10 days to investigate the Lewis-Holyfield decision and determine if the selection process of judges should be handled by the commission or other impartial bodies. The commission did select Mercante to be the referee.

"Certainly, if you have judges who have a preconceived view of who should win, then it could impact -- it would obviously impact -- the integrity of a match," Pataki said. "We want to do everything we can to make sure that these judges are acting as objectively as possible."

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called the judging of the fight an "embarrassment" and compared it with a point-shaving scandal in basketball.

"If we are going to bring boxing back to New York, to end up with fixed fights with fixed results, we might as well call it wrestling," Giuliani said.

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