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Boxing Throws Its Roots into the Fayetteville Ring

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FAYETTEVILLE — The sport of boxing has taken a few knocks lately, but Friday night legendary fighters tried to bring it back into the spotlight.

Boxing fans got a real treat at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville as Larry Homes stopped James ``Bonecrusher'' Smith in the eighth round.

Nearly 15 years have passed since Holmes and Smith collided in Las Vegas in a heavyweight title bout. Holmes, a heavyweight champion from 1978-85, retained his IBF title by technical knockout and ran his professional record to 46-0.

The fight was an exhibition of past-their-prime fighters that promoters have titled ``Legends of Boxing.''

Some fans say the match is filling a void in the world of boxing. For the fighters, who are both nearing 50 years old, they just cannot seem to hang up their gloves.

"I think it's that old feeling of getting ready for a fight," said Garreth David, a sports reporter. "I mean they say it is like a drug, and it's hard to give it up."

Since Iron Mike Tyson exploded on the scene more than 10 years ago, there has not been a dominant heavyweight figure. Some fans say the older boxing generation is better.

"I think George Foreman proved that by coming back in his 40s and winning the heavyweight championship," said boxing fan Terry Schnurr.

"There are a lot of people who come to just see them fight, so they can say, 'I saw George Foreman fight,' or 'I saw Bonecrusher Smith fight,'" said Shawn Lemmond with the N.C. Boxing Commission.

Lemmond says boxing is evolving, especially in the way of regulation. The Tyson ear-biting incident obviously fueled that fire.

North Carolina was one of the last states to form a boxing commission just 4 years ago.

"Bonecrusher Smith actually led the charge to get a commission into the state," Lemmond said. "He was the first chairman of the boxing commission."

Smith, a native of nearby Magnolia, took the World Boxing Association title away from Tim Witherspoon in 1986, then lost the crown to Mike Tyson in his first title defense.

Witherspoon, now 41, is fighting another former heavyweight champion, 40-year-old Greg Page. Also on the card are middleweights Juan La Porte and Billy Costello and a fight between Gwen Smith of Charlotte and Melissa Jeter of Rome, Ga.

Holmes and Smith acted like grumpy old men at Thursday's weigh-in. They disagreed over who would mount the scales first at Fort Bragg's main Non-Commissioned Officers Club, then over who would be the first to enter the ring Friday night.

After the scales found Holmes to be 250 pounds, and Smith hitting 275 in his Fruit of the Loom briefs, their verbal sparring hit on a more personal level.

Holmes said he never let money or success get to his head, but charged that Smith had gotten too big for his britches.

"People say Bone won't even talk to them when they're walking down the street," Holmes said, "and I don't think that's right for people who are making a few dollars not to speak to someone else because they're less fortunate than you. I think everybody's created equal in God's eyes, Mr. Bonecrusher."

Smith described his opponent as an adulterer and a drunkard.

Holmes has not fought in almost two years, but had planned to fight George Foreman in January. The fight was canceled because the promoter couldn't meet financing commitments.

"I need money, and a fight with George would bring big money," said Holmes, who estimates his worth at $20 million.

The fight was shown on pay-per-view.


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