Friday, May 22, 2009 | 2 p.m.
It’s been 19 months since he’s been in the ring, but a former champ returns to Las Vegas to see what he’s got left.
No this isn’t Floyd Mayweather Jr., “The Pretty Boy”, isn’t set to return until July. Instead former heavyweight champ Oliver McCall will be highlighting the main event of Crown Boxing's fight card tonight at 7 p.m. at The Orleans against Australian John Hopoate.
While the 44-year-old McCall — who claimed the WBC heavyweight championship in 1994 with a stunning second-round knockout of Lennox Lewis — lost his last bout to Juan Carlos Gomez in October of 2007, insists he’s not only ready for Hopoate (11-2 with 11 KOs), a former Rugby star, but to regain a world championship.
“The heavyweight division ain’t as wide-open as some people think,” McCall told The Sweet Science. “They say it’s wide-open because the United States has fallen so far behind in the sport of boxing. The Klitschkos, they can fight a little bit. It ain’t like the fighters of old, but they’ve had some pretty good, exciting fights.
“Back when I won the heavyweight title, I got it back after it had left the United States for the first time in, like, a hundred years. I can do it again. I know it.”
That seems like quite the challenge for McCall (51-9 36 KOs), who hasn’t faced a marquee name since his bizarre rematch with Lewis in 1997. McCall couldn’t come out of his corner in the fifth round after crying uncontrollably and the bout was called.
McCall, who continues to battle his former drug addiction, did put together a streak of 22-1 with two no-decisions before his loss to Gomez.
Whatever happens tonight, McCall’s biggest cheerleader will be his 21-year-old son Elijah, who also appears on the card in a four-round heavyweight bout against Chad Davis.
“It’s more of a blessing than a curse,” Elijah told The Sweet Science of his connection to his father.
“Everyone knows that my dad is Oliver McCall. They know about all the great things he’s done in this business. They know all the bad things, too. I’m thankful for the opportunity to show the talents and skills I got from my father, but I want to show that I’m my own man.”