Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oliver McCall back, ready to defend title

By Anthony Fenech

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009 | 9:30 p.m.

Fifteen years ago, Oliver McCall and Michael Moorer were champions.

When both in their late 20s, they were among the most prominent of heavyweight boxers, at one point holding all three major heavyweight belts.

McCall was fresh off a victory over Lennox Lewis, claiming stake to the World Boxing Council Heavyweight title. Meanwhile, Moorer had just defeated Evander Holyfield to gain possession of both the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association Heavyweight titles.

In the years since, McCall has won some and lost some, retired and unretired, but now the 44-year-old is back as a champion with Moorer at his side. This Friday, he looks to defend his International Boxing Association Heavyweight title at the Orleans Arena.

“I’ve got my strength, got my health, I’ve been running good and I’m ready to go,” McCall said Wednesday at The Orleans Hotel & Casino Piano Bar.

“This is just the start of me and Michael Moorer coming together — two former champions, getting the title back here.”

McCall will be squaring off with current IBA Heavyweight champion Lance “Mount” Williams, a fighter six years his junior and not nearly as decorated. The event is sponsored by boxing analyst Al Bernstein and Crown Boxing.

Once regarded as one of the up-and-coming heavyweight boxers, Lance Whitaker dropped a number of matches in blowout form, falling out of favor in boxing circles and sliding down the sport’s totem pole.

Wednesday, Whitaker’s trainer Vernon Fletcher, did most of his talking, as he equally entertained and baffled the crowd with a scripted pep-like talk that had some in attendance shaking their heads.

“This is Lance’s coming out party,” Fletcher said. “Oliver McCall has been carefully selected, and what you will see Friday night is the systematic destruction of a legend.”

“The ‘Atomic Bull’ has never been knocked out,” he continued, above sarcastic laughter from the crowd. “And we couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to reintroduce ‘Mount’ Whitaker to boxing. What you will see Friday night will amaze you.”

After Whitaker stepped up to the podium and said a few thank-yous, it was the McCall-Moorer team’s turn to try their hand at comedy.

“Unfortunately,” Moorer said, alluding to Fletcher’s comments, “I don’t have a script to read.”

When it was McCall’s turn to talk, he looked down to his left at the gray-bearded Fletcher, shook his head and said, “Man.”

During McCall’s address, Williams, seated directly to the left of the podium, answered his challenges but was shot down when McCall quipped, “I’m surprised you said something. I’d let you say it up here but you sent your script man.”

The event includes the WBC Cruiser Weight Championship between defending WBC champion Victor Barragan and King Arthur Williams of Oxnard, Calif.

“With all due respect,” Williams said of Barragan, “He’s got his hands full come Friday night.”

The championship matches not included, the event includes six undercard fights, including a Junior Welterweight bout between Las Vegans Juan Heraldez and Juan Alcoalea.

McCall’s last fight was about two months ago, when he defeated Franklin Lawrence in a 10-round fight at the same venue, a fight that McCall admits now he wasn’t adequately conditioned for.

“I wasn’t running or training well,” he said. “Now, I got my eight-pack back.”

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