Oliver McCall

When Oliver McCall entered the boxing ring to fight for the heavyweight championship on

February 7th, 1997, he was not alone. With him came the specter of years of drug abuse. Just 7

weeks before, McCall had been arrested for swinging a Christmas tree around a hotel lobby

whilein a drug-induced haze. A few years earlier, he was found in a crack house after having

been mugged by a fellow addict, to whom he lost the $1.5 million check he had carried with him

in a sock to buy drugs. These events were just two of many drug-related occurrences on his

record. His most recent arrest, how-ever had been followed by a drug treatment program, while

he attended daily.

But something went wrong the night of February 7th. After having announced to a friend, “I

want my title; I am fighting for my life.” McCall seemed to want to get knocked out. In the third

round, in the middle of the ring, in front of a packed audience, he listlessly walked around as his

opponent, Lennox Lewis, threw punches at him. McCall dodged and bobbed his head, yet

refused to fight back. After the fourth round, McCall stood alone, away from his corner, sobbing

uncontrollably, seemingly having a nervous breakdown in front of a worldwide cable television

audience. Fifty-five seconds into the fifth round, referee Mills Lane stopped the fight. Lewis was

the winner. McCall, in more ways than one, was not.

Although drugs have been an unwelcome part of sports in recent years, there are few cases

where the consequences became more publicly evident. Here was a great contradiction for the

world to see: Lennox Lewis, the athlete who had never been knocked down, and Oliver McCall,

the man floored by the pain and drugs in his life. McCall’s trainer, George Benton, said, “It was

hard to watch, but it could be the best thing that ever happened to the human race. Now a

father can tell his kids, ‘You see what you saw on T.V.? You see what happens when someone's

on drugs?’ It was one hell of a lesson.”

#addiction #relapse #startingover #boxing #professional #drugs #olivermccall

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