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WHITAKER KOS MASKAEV IN 2ND.

Byline: Michael Rosenthal Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS - Lance Whitaker became a player in the big-money heavyweight boxing stakes Saturday.

Whitaker, the former San Fernando High basketball player, didn't just knock out capable Oleg Maskaev on the Shane Mosley-Shannan Taylor undercard at Caesars Palace. He did it in a way that gets fans, promoters and TV executives excited - with two crushing punches, the second of which ended the bout at 1:03 of the second round.

And in doing so, he becomes one of a handful of big men who will be considered as an opponent for WBC/IBF champion Lennox Lewis and possibly WBA titleholder John Ruiz.

``I just wanted to show the world that I'm one of the best, that I can be a No. 1 contender and world champion,'' said Whitaker (23-1, with 19 knockouts).

He apparently wasn't distracted by the illness of his 6-year-old son, Lance Jr., who is undergoing treatment for leukemia.

``I love my son,'' he said. ``I think about him all the time, but I had to keep my mind on my work tonight.''

He had a short day at the office.

He started carefully, even backing up as Maskaev (20-4, 15 KOs) stalked him in an uneventful opening round.

And he didn't do much in the second until he nailed Maskaev with a right hand that staggered him.

Then it was Whitaker's turn to do the stalking. The 6-foot-8 fighter followed the 6-5 Maskaev across the ring as he threw hard, straight punches before finally landing another big right to the side of Maskaev's head that knocked him flat on his back.

Maskaev tried to get up but fell on his face and was counted out.

Just like that, Whitaker, never considered much of a contender, made a huge statement.

However, luring Lewis into the ring won't be easy.

Lewis wants to fight Mike Tyson because of the money the matchup would generate. And, if that fight can't be made, he will chose from a long line of possible opponents.

Lewis, present at the fight Saturday, said afterward that Whitaker could have a long wait.

``He's probably scared of me,'' Whitaker said. ``He sees that I'm growing as a fighter, that I'm bigger and stronger than he is, and he probably doesn't want anything to do with me.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo: Lance Whitaker of Granada Hills, left, lands a left hook against Oleg Maskaev of Russia in the second round of Whitaker's knockout victory.

Matt York/Associated Press
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 11, 2001
Words:416
Previous Article:MOSLEY PUNISHES TAYLOR SAVAGELY.
Next Article:LAKERS NOTEBOOK: KOBE `OUT OF LINE,' MAY SIT OUT TONIGHT.


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