Originally created 10/01/97

McCall can fight while courts spar over purse



LAS VEGAS (AP) - Oliver McCall was cleared Tuesday to fight again while the courts spar over his $3 million purse that has been withheld since his tearful breakdown in the ring with Lennox Lewis.

Nevada boxing regulators voted unanimously to drop their temporary suspension of McCall, making him eligible to fight in any state that will approve his comeback.

"He will be looking for an opponent and a place to fight," McCall's lawyer, Oscar Goodman said. "He wants to fight and he needs the money. That's what he does to earn a living."

McCall wasn't expected to be allowed to fight again until at least next February, under a conditional settlement that called for him to be suspended for a year and fined $250,000 for his bizarre actions during his Feb. 7 heavyweight title loss to Lewis.

But with McCall's purse tied up by a New Jersey federal judge who claimed jurisdiction in the dispute, the Nevada State Athletic Commission decided to drop the temporary suspension and withhold final disciplinary action until the case is ultimately decided in the courts.

"We do not believe he should be penalized because of this jurisdictional struggle," said commission attorney Donald Haight.

Commissioners also voted to join in the court case originally instigated by promoter Main Events Inc. in New Jersey to seek jurisdiction over McCall's $3 million purse, which has been held pending the court action.

McCall has appealed the case to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, and a ruling is not expected until next year.

McCall had agreed to the one-year suspension and $250,000 fine for breaking down and crying and then refusing to fight in a fight for the vacant WBC title that was eventually stopped in the fifth round.

But Main Events filed a lawsuit in New Jersey in April, saying it deserves some of McCall's purse because McCall breached his obligation to "give an honest exhibition of his skills." It also seeks unspecified monetary damages as compensation and punishment.

HBO, which telecast the fight, is technically a defendant in this case, but also seeks the $3 million it paid for the rights to the fight, asserting it did not get what it paid for.

U.S. District Judge William Bassler earlier this month asserted he has the jurisdiction only to divide the $3 million.

While Nevada commissioners voted to lift McCall's suspension, he would have to go in front of them again to get approval to fight in the state.

The chief of the commission's medical advisory committee, Dr. Flip Homansky, asked commissioners to make sure McCall has had "some type of ongoing psychological intervention so we know where will be no detrimental aspect to Oliver McCall going back in the ring."

Goodman, though, said he didn't believe his client had mental problems.

"It's our position that whatever psychological problems he has had have been resolved," Goodman said. "It's just a matter of getting back in shape and fighting."

McCall did not attend the commission hearing, and Goodman said the state's action came as a surprise to his client.

"He had no idea this suspension would be lifted," Goodman said.