Sunday, February 2, 2003

Lewis prefers Tyson rematch over quality opponent



By BOB MATTHEWS
Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

As The Sports World Turns: Lennox Lewis is doing his best to be remembered as a chicken-hearted and second-class heavyweight boxing champion.

It isn't his fault that there haven't been many top-shelf challengers in their primes during his reign, but it is sad to see him ducking an April title defense against rugged Vitaly Klitschko in favor of pursuing a much safer and more lucrative June rematch against washed-up Mike Tyson.

Tyson appears to be finished as a quality fighter and legitimate contender. He did little to merit his first title shot against Lewis last June 8 and has done nothing since to justify a rematch.

Tyson's "tuneup" fight will be Feb. 22 in Memphis, Tenn., against Clifford Etienne, in the same ring Tyson was demolished by Lewis last summer.

Tyson is a huge favorite against Etienne (bet $600 to win $100 on Tyson or bet $100 to win $400 on Etienne), partly because it is unlikely that Tyson's camp would put him up against anyone with the slightest chance of beating him to foil another rich payday against Lewis.

There is no denying Lewis' cleverness. Why risk losing the title to a much younger and dangerous opponent when he can duck both Klitschkos (Vitaly and brother Vladimir) to preserve a much easier and richer fight against Tyson?

There used to be something noble in being the heavyweight champion. The best of them dodged no one. Even Tyson took on all the top contenders and beat them until one disastrous 1990 night in Tokyo against Buster Douglas.

Lewis-Tyson II probably would produce huge revenues for two reasons: many people would enjoy watching former bully Tyson take a licking and there always is a chance that he might have one big punch left in him to regain the title.

In terms of his boxing legacy, Lewis has nothing to gain by fighting Tyson again. If he wins, he'll be regarded as a champion who ducked quality competition in favor of guaranteeing one final mammoth payday. If he loses, whatever prestige he had as champion will disappear.

Lewis appears to be far more concerned about his health and bank account than his place in boxing history.

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News that a victory by Rusty Wallace in the Daytona 500 Feb. 16 would result in a free six-pack of Miller Lite for every fan 21 or older in attendance inspires thoughts of similar giveaways by other Winston Cup sponsors.

For example, Budweiser and Coors Light (six-packs), Tide (boxes of soap), Kellogg's and Cherrios (boxes of cereal), Hooters (chicken wings), Sharpie (pens), Viagra (for male fans over 50) and M&M's (candy).

But it could be too pricey for Dodge Dealers, Interstate Batteries, Caterpillar (tractors) and Jasper Engines and Transmissions.

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It is time to rethink the voting procedure for Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

The current format has 19 total votes: 15 from media people and 4 from fans via the Internet. The flaw in the system is that the player with the highest percentage of votes from the fans receives the entire four-vote allotment instead of an appropriate percentage of those four votes.

In media balloting in Super Bowl XXXVII, Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice led with 6.5 votes, followed by teammates Dexter Jackson and Michael Pittman with 4 each and Greg Spires with .5. Jackson finished on top in balloting by the fans with less than 20 percent of the total votes, but he was given the entire four-vote allotment and that made him the winner.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the four-vote fan allotment made New England quarterback Tom Brady the MVP despite the fact that teammate Ty Law received the most votes from the media.

It is a good idea for the fans to participate in the MVP process, but to be fair, their four votes should be distributed among all of the candidates according to the percentage of votes they received.

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The unsung hero of Super Bowl XXXVII was Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman, who had 29 carries for 124 yards to help the Buccaneers control the clock (37:14 time of possession to Oakland's 22:46).

Entering the Super Bowl, Pittman had only two 100-yard rushing games in his 74-game NFL career. The 124 yards were second only to the 133 yards he had in his first pro start with Arizona in 1999.

Pittman's outstanding effort could cool any interest the Buccaneers might have had in all-time rusher Emmitt Smith if his career with Dallas is over.

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The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers again proved that defense wins championships, but New York Mets slugger Mike Piazza isn't buying it. He delighted the team's fans this week by saying the Mets are the team to beat in the National League East.

The 2003 Mets would be one of the worst-fielding teams ever to win a division, with Piazza the prime example behind the plate. He couldn't shift to first base even if he wanted to because lousy-fielding Mo Vaughn is anchored at that spot. And it should take pitcher Tom Glavine one or two starts to miss former Atlanta teammate Andruw Jones in center field.

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The most competitive NBA All-Star Game matchup Feb. 9 would be the Western Conference's starting five elected by the fans (Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Steve Francis) vs. five of the Western Conference reserves picked by the coaches (Shaquille O'Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Gary Payton and Stephon Marbury).

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The Michael Jordan Factor: His Washington Wizards entered this week leading the NBA in both average home and average road attendance.

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Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. is one of the world's most underrated amazing athletes. He won his record 9,500th career race this week at Santa Anita in California at the age of 56. He still is going strong and might have a shot at 10,000 wins before he retires. No. 2 Bill Shoemaker won 8,833 races.

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The New York Yankees now are even money in Las Vegas to win the American League pennant (Oakland is 2-to-1 and 2002 World Series champion Anaheim is 3-to-1) and the 2-to-1 favorite to win the World Series (Arizona and Oakland each 4-to-1) this season.




UC BEARCATS
Marquette 82, UC 76
Daugherty: Snarl gone from 'Cats
Rankings become least of concerns

XAVIER
Xavier 66, Richmond 52
Victory a little sweeter for West

OTHER COLLEGE BASKETBALL
No. 7 Kentucky 87, South Carolina 69
Miami 57, Buffalo 55
Ohio State 65, Northwestern 52
No. 8 Louisville 95, No. 19 Indiana 76
Syracuse stuns No. 2 Pitt
Texas A&M denies Knight 800th victory
Top 25 roundup: Who's No. 1? Maybe Texas
How the Top 25 fared
Women: UConn blasts No. 1 Duke
Smith's late basket lifts Norse men to 76-75 victory

REDS / MLB
Shake this winter chill, make tracks for Florida
Reds Spring Training Guide
A look at the Grapefruit League
Leading off, Adam Dunn?
Judge: Put Rose in HOF

BENGALS / NFL
Bengals Q&A
Ditka interested in coaching Lions
Garcia frustrated by 49ers' coaching conundrum
Rice's heart fonder for Hawaii

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Hula Bowl: South 27, North 24
Paterno: 2006 might be final year at Penn State
Grambling QB wins Gaither Award

HORSE RACING
Streaking Champali adds WEBN at Turfway
Medaglia d'Oro wins Strub Stakes after three-month layoff
Record number nominated for Triple Crown races

PREP SPORTS
Groeschen: St. X swimmers step up
Schmidt: Former prep football stars get shot at pros
Withrow gets top seed in Division I
Sectional tournament pairings
St. Henry hits All 'A' state
Ohio boys games
Ohio girls games
Ky. boys games
Ky. girls games
Prep sports results

GOLF
Herron pulls away by 4 strokes in Hope Classic

NBA BASKETBALL
NBA: Penalized Pacers prevail

HOCKEY
MacInnis, Roy lead West to skills victory
NHL YoungStars: East 8, West 3
NHL All-Star notebook
Ducks waddle past Admirals

AUTO RACING
The Boogity Man is back
Tight battle up front in Daytona
NASCAR notebook

TRISTATE SPOTLITE
Ex-GCL, XU players skip along in ACC
Local man knows story behind numbers
Enquirer's Page Two power rankings

AS THE SPORTS WORLD TURNS
Lewis prefers Tyson rematch over quality opponent