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His ticket is punched

Savvy moves boost Brewster

Sam Simon did the right thing for his fighter, World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster, last weekend. He did nothing at all.

In the days leading up to Brewster's confrontation with Andrew Golota at the United Center in Chicago, promoter Don King kept badgering Simon for a signature. He wanted Simon not to gamble on the fighter he has guided from a $5,000-per-bout nonentity to WBO champion in four years. He wanted him to take the sure thing, which in this case was a discounted contract extension.

King's pitch was that Brewster was coming off a lackluster performance against an unknown named Kali Meehan in which he barely escaped with a split decision and was now the underdog against Golota, who had lost two straight title challenges himself.

But Simon believed in his fighter, so he left the extension unsigned, thus leaving Brewster's future at risk -- until 12 seconds after the opening bell, when Brewster flattened Golota for the first of three times in a 53-second victory that suddenly puts the lightly-regarded WBO champion in a position he's not used to: in the driver's seat of a muddled division.

''Four years ago, Lamon fought once for $5,000," said Simon ''Here he is now the undisputed heavyweight champion [at least in Simon's opinion] of the world. He's going to be making a lot of money.

''I know the one thing I did good as a manager was not signing the contract extension Don wanted me to sign before the fight. We had the feeling in the locker room that you were going to see what you did."

While World Boxing Association champion John Ruiz, International Boxing Federation titleholder Chris Byrd, and World Boxing Council belt-wearer Vitali Klitschko have been unimpressive when given their chances in front of national television's bright lights, Brewster shined.

Golota may be a suspect contender prone to anxiety attacks but he went the distance with Ruiz and Byrd and could argue that he beat each of them. All he did against Brewster was beat a hasty retreat.

''I know fighting Golota did good for my confidence and it did good for my career," Brewster said. ''I showed I've got the knockout power. No one can stand in front of me. That's suicide. I'm one of the hardest punchers in the heavyweight division, if not the hardest."

''Lamon Brewster changed the landscape of heavyweight boxing," King crowed. ''He says he's the best heavyweight on the planet and I have to agree with him."

That may be typical King overstatement, but Brewster is someone HBO wants to televise again. There was talk that King may match Brewster with Ruiz, but Brewster would prefer going right to Klitschko in a unification fight worth more money.

Regardless of that, King is planning an Aug. 13 show, possibly back in Chicago, with Hasim Rahman fighting Monte Barrett for the ''interim" WBC title while Klitschko heals from minor back surgery, and he was considering putting Byrd on the same card against a warm body until Klitschko's brother, Wladimir, filed suit, claiming he should be Byrd's mandatory challenger.

The younger Klitschko argues he's the highest-rated available heavyweight in the IBF and Byrd must make a mandatory defense by that Aug. 13 date under the organization's rules. But the IBF is floating the idea of granting Byrd an exception to fight someone else while a debate rages over whether Klitschko will remain third-ranked after beating an unranked opponent while DaVarryl Williamson beat a ranked one. And then there is always the possibility it simply placed Toney in at No. 3 or higher despite the 90-day suspension he's under.

But no paying customers care about these endless arguments over money and carefully selected opponents for champions who seem more interested in not fighting than fighting. What fans want and are willing to pay for, as 20,126 did last weekend in Chicago, is performance. For the first time in a long time, someone gave that to them.

Short jabs

King may have made money at the United Center but he might as well sign the check over to rival promoter Art Pelullo, who beat him in court for nearly $8 million. Pelullo claimed King had stolen Ruiz from him after he signed Ruiz to a promotional deal in 1996. The US District Court said King must pay Pelullo from his end of Ruiz's purses, plus interest. King will appeal, but he's on a bad legal roll, having settled with Terry Norris for $7 million and Tyson for $14 million . . . The one champion you can expect Brewster to avoid is Byrd, but not because of concerns over his slick boxing style that has frustrated so many opponents. It's because they are cousins and close friends. ''I learned against Meehan what my weakness was," Brewster said. ''I can't fight a friend. Everyone else, I'm knocking out." . . . No one saw it on TV, but light heavyweight Tomasz Adamek put on a brave performance on his way to winning the vacant WBC light heavyweight title from No. 1 challenger Paul Briggs underneath Brewster-Golota. Adamek and Briggs were both bloody messes when the fight was over but Adamek had problems before he even stepped into the ring. The new champion broke his nose in training and hadn't sparred for a month, but he told no one, fearing King might pull him off the show. His nose began to bleed quickly and was a river of red by the end, yet he hammered out a well-deserved decision and inflicted more damage than he received . . . When Winky Wright, fresh off his domination of Felix Trinidad, heard Oscar De La Hoya announce his September return to pay-per-view boxing at 150 pounds, not 147 or 154, Wright took it personally. ''I see De La Hoya has created a new division for himself," Wright said. ''Is he calling it 'Junior Catchweight' or 'Super Oscarweight'? Personally, I think it's 'Make Winky Wait.' " Wright hoped to get a shot at De La Hoya at 154 pounds, the junior middleweight limit . . . Julio Cesar Chavez says ''adios" for the last time Saturday night in Los Angeles, in a bout with old warrior Ivan Robinson. On the same card, the legendary Mexican champion's son, undefeated Julio Jr., puts his 18-0 record on the line against Adam Wynant (9-3-1). The bouts will be on Showtime pay-per-view.

Material from interviews, wire services, and other beat writers was used in this report.

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