Originally created 01/26/03

Vernon's fight draws little media attention



TEMECULA, Calif. - The eyes of sports fans are trained on San Diego today.

But what was one supposed to do the night before the Super Bowl?

Watch TV? Hit a pre-game party? Read a book?

The indecision is almost enough to make a fan insane.

Vernon Forrest had the answer. Either head 60 miles north on I-15 to the Pechanga Indian Reservation, or watch his welterweight unification bout against Ricardo Mayorga on HBO.

A fan's lust for violence on the gridiron will be quenched after tonight's big game, but Forrest said he was more than happy to provide an appetizer.

As long as he got some of the sports world's attention.

"The idea was to piggyback off the overflow of the Super Bowl," said Forrest who faced Mayorga late Saturday night. "There's not too much to do the Saturday before the game."

Originally, Forrest said, the plan was to fight Mayorga in San Diego. But the city couldn't provide an adequate facility, so the fight was moved about an hour away to the Pechanga Casino and Resort.

That way, close proximity to the Super Bowl still was an advantage.

"But this fight wasn't about getting football fans to watch boxing," Forrest said. "We based it on sports fans watching boxing."

If so, the night was a success. The fight was sold out weeks in advance, and about 3,000 people packed into the Grand Ballroom to watch the fighters battle.

The big fight might have been overshadowed by the big game.

Although Forrest said lots of media coverage wasn't necessarily one of his goals, there wasn't much ink before Saturday for a fight featuring The Ring magazine's welterweight champion and its No. 1 contender.

The only coverage the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which covers the Pechanga reservation, gave to the fight this week was a medium-sized fight preview Saturday on the front page. Below the fold.

Saturday in the Los Angeles Times, a paper that's less than 90 minutes away from the fight, there was a short boxing advance buried on page 3.

While there were feature stories throughout the week in USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times, the fight didn't get much press on television sports shows.

Instead, the Super Bowl dominated the sport's landscape.

But that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of Carl King, the manager for Mayorga.

"When Ricardo wins, we have the opportunity to visit the world on Sunday at the Super Bowl," King said at Friday's news conference. "He will be seen by the world. We want to take him there and let everybody see him as the new super champion."

Said Lou DiBella, the fight promoter and the manager of DiBella Entertainment, on Friday: "You'll have tons of press attention. A lot of boxing writers will be covering the Super Bowl. And I'm thrilled too, because I get to go to the Super Bowl."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com