Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Ex-heavyweight champs to fight in Atlantic City

NEW YORK -- Nobody threw a punch, nobody spewed an obscenity, nobody gnawed any body parts.

Despite the absence of malice, ex-heavyweight champions Evander Holyfield and Hasim Rahman joined a news conference Wednesday announcing their June 1 fight in Atlantic City -- a return of big-time boxing to New Jersey.

''I've seen Rahman fight for a while, and he's a guy who gives his all,'' said a gracious Holyfield, a four-time titlist. ''If a guy gives his all, he has a chance to win.''

An equally hospitable Rahman, who held the title for seven months last year after defeating Lennox Lewis, hailed Holyfield as ''an incredible fighter, an incredible champ.''

Dajuan Wagner plans to enter this year's NBA draft

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Freshman guard Dajuan Wagner, who led Memphis to the NIT championship last month, said Wednesday he will make himself eligible for the NBA draft.

''This was a difficult decision; however my lifelong dream has been to play in the NBA and I am anxious to begin my professional basketball career,'' Wagner said. ''I am going to continue to attend classes and finish the semester, as I promised my mother that I would get my degree.''

The 6-foot-3 Wagner averaged 21.2 points and shot 41 percent from the field this season. He also averaged 3.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Wagner was selected the MVP of the NIT, Memphis' first postseason basketball championship.

Also Wednesday, Scooter McFadgon, the other starting guard for the Tigers, said he will transfer out of the program.

Poor pitching sends Rocker to the minors

ARLINGTON, Texas -- John Rocker got demoted to the minor leagues because of his poor pitching, not for anything he said.

Texas optioned Rocker to Triple-A Oklahoma early Wednesday, after he blew a save opportunity by giving up two runs in the 10th inning of the Rangers' 6-5 loss at Anaheim the night before.

''We're sending John out not unlike any player that is struggling at this point,'' general manager John Hart said. ''John's performance just hadn't been what we think his ability is. There is no question the arm strength is still there, but the results haven't been there.''

Ireland's soccer team tops United States

DUBLIN, Ireland -- If the United States plays defense like this at the World Cup, the Americans are in for a short trip.

Ireland got around U.S. defenders to score a pair of goals and defeated the Americans 2-1 Wednesday night in the last road game for the United States before the World Cup.

Mark Kinsella got past Gregg Berhalter to score in the seventh minute as the game at Lansdowne Road began in pouring rain. Eddie Pope tied it for the United States in the 34th, put Ireland got the winning goal in the 84th when Gary Doherty outjumped defender Tony Sanneh and beat goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

While the Americans are 8-3 this year, they've lost all three games in Europe, falling previously to Italy (1-0) and Germany (4-2). The United States, which plans to announce its 23-man World Cup roster on Monday, had most of its top players together for the first time this year, and the starting lineup was a good indication of the group that will take the field June 5 when the Americans open World Cup play against Portugal.

Calhoun says Butler still hasn't made up his mind

Although Connecticut forward Caron Butler appears ready to declare himself eligible for the NBA draft, his coach said Wednesday it's not 100 percent certain.

''He wants one more night to sleep on it,'' Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said.

Butler and Calhoun have scheduled a news conference for Thursday at 2 p.m at Gampel Pavilion on the Storrs campus. A news release said Butler ''will address his future plans.''

WTNH-TV in Hartford and reported Wednesday that Butler has decided to leave school after his sophomore season.

NBA fines Hawks, Magic players for fight

NEW YORK -- Jason Terry of Atlanta and Don Reid of Orlando were fined and suspended without pay from their teams' final regular season games Wednesday for fighting during a game the previous night.

The NBA fined Terry $10,000 for throwing a punch at Reid, who was finied $7,500 for fighting back.

The fight occurred with 9:04 remaining in Tuesday night's game at Atlanta. Driving the lane, Terry was slammed to the floor after Reid corralled him with his right arm. Terry, who landed on his back, got up and pushed Reid from behind. Reid tried to retaliate before being restrained by teammates. Both players were ejected. The Magic won, 102-95.

Walker's injury is minor, Harnisch to have surgery

DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies received good news about slugger Larry Walker on Wednesday, but the team will lose right-hander Pete Harnisch for the season because of elbow surgery.

Walker left Tuesday night's game with soreness in his right elbow and missed Wednesday's game, but an MRI showed no major structural problems. Walker had elbow surgery after the 1997 season and again in 2000.

The Rockies are off on Thursday, and Walker will be reevaluated on Friday.

''We're very encouraged because he's feeling a lot better,'' trainer Tom Probst said.

''We're looking at a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament and a strain of the flexor tendon. Both are very mild in nature. It's looking a lot better than we thought Tuesday night,'' he said.

Probst said Walker, who won his third NL batting title last season, reported experiencing pain after taking a swing in the third inning of Tuesday's game.

''It's just kind of a strain,'' manager Buddy Bell said. ''Hopefully, he'll be able to play this weekend in Arizona. If not, no later than the Cincinnati series'' which begins on Tuesday.

Harnisch, 35, was attempting a comeback after having surgery last August to repair a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. When his recovery slowed this spring, Harnisch sought a medical explanation.

Examination by the Rockies' medical director, Dr. Richard Hawkins, and Dr. David Altcheck in New York showed Harnisch has a torn ligament, which will be surgically reconstructed on Monday.

Probst said the typical recovery time for such an injury is 16 to 18 months.

''It could be career-ending -- for anybody who has it,'' Probst said. ''But when you look at his age, that's a little bit of a detriment. Basically, it's what you call Tommy John surgery.

''We're hoping for Pete's sake that he has a chance to come back and everything works out well. He's a hard worker. If anybody is going to be able to come back from it, I think he's got a good shot.''

In spring training, Harnisch was projected as a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the Rockies' rotation. He threw in bullpen sessions but never in an exhibition game, and he came to Denver to continue his recovery once the season started.

Probst said the ligament must have been damaged between the time Harnisch had an MRI in January and the start of the season.

''Usually when you have a torn ligament, there is one sudden incident where the player will feel severe pain,'' Probst said. ''There also usually is swelling. Pete never had that. In fact, he was able to throw and continue to throw. His velocity was about 80 mph, and he couldn't get beyond that range. That's why we looked into it.''

Bell said the injury is ''unfortunate for Pete and a blow to us as well. Hopefully, he'll be able to come back from this. It's a pretty extensive operation.''

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