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State to probe report of Mercer bribe offer

The chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission said he is investigating the Feb. 6 Jesse Ferguson-Ray Mercer fight amid reports Mercer offered Ferguson $100,000 during the bout to lose.

Ferguson scored a unanimous 10-round decision over Mercer on the undercard of the Riddick Bowe-Michael Dokes heavyweight title fight. The loss cost Mercer a $2.5 million payday as Bowe's next opponent.

Both heavyweights denied the allegations after reports surfaced last weekend that Mercer, knowing he was losing the fight and the chance at Bowe's title, offered the payoff to Ferguson during clinches. He was warned repeatedly by referee Wayne Kelley about talking to his opponent.

"This is a fact-finder. It's a preliminary investigation that could lead to a full-blown one," said Randy Gordon, the chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. "I'll be watching tapes of the fight at HBO on Thursday."

Gordon said he will have a lip-reader with him in an attempt to determine just what Mercer was saying to Ferguson.

Johnson faces life ban if positive test is confirmed

Ben Johnson could be banned for life by the doping commission of world's track and field governing body, which will meet in Paris on Friday to discuss his latest alleged incident of drug cheating.

Johnson, stripped of the gold medal and banned for four years after testing positive for steroid use at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, reportedly failed tests in January while competing in Canada.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation said the commission will convene to discuss several issues, including a positive test on Johnson at a Montreal meet Jan. 17. Johnson finished second to countryman Bruny Surin in the 60 meters at that meet.

"Neither Mr. Johnson nor his representatives have been notified of any positive test," said a release from the Toronto law firm of McMillan Binch. "Mr. Johnson denies taking any prohibited substance or engaging in any improper practice since his return to competition."

Upsets order of the day in Champions Cup tennis

Unseeded Marc Rosset of Switzerland, the singles champion at the Barcelona Olympics, stunned seventh-seeded Andre Agassi, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, in the upset-filled second-round match of the $1.7 million Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.

Alberto Mancini upset No. 6 Goran Ivansievic, 6-3, 6-2, and Fabrice Santoro took out No. 8 Michael Stich, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5) in a two-hour, 23-minute battle.

Second-seeded Pete Sampras easily defeated Luiz Mattar of Brazil, 6-4, 6-4.

Volleyball coaches named for World University Games

Jim McLaughlin of Southern California and Andy Banachowski of UCLA have been named head coaches of the U.S. volleyball teams for the World University Games, to be held July 8-18 in Buffalo.

McLaughlin, who will coach the U.S. men, led USC to the NCAA title in 1990 and a second-place finish last year. He also was head coach of the U.S. silver medal-winning team at the '91 World Games as well as the '91 Pan Am Games team. He is 71-22 in four years at USC.

Banachowski has coached the UCLA women's team for 26 seasons and owns a 710-146 record. UCLA won the NCAA women's title in 1990 and '91 and finished second this winter.

Around & About

Randy Pedersen averaged 228 for 12 games and held the second-round lead with 2,736 pins in the PBA's $150,000 Flagship City Open in Erie, Pa. . . . Brian Martin of St. Bonaventure placed 7th in 3-meter diving with 359.52 points as the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming Championships opened at Cleveland State.
After falling short in its 13 previous attempts, St. Bonaventure gets its last shot at an Atlantic 10 regular-season victory tonight against West Virginia at the Reilly Center.

Bona (10-15 overall, 0-13 A-10) goes into the game led by Harry Moore at 18.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

The Mountaineers (15-10, 6-7) pounded Bona, 92-56, at Morgantown earlier this year and boast a 30-3 all-time advantage on the Bonnies. West Virginia may be missing Marsalis Basey, the Atlantic 10's assists leader at 5.7 per game, who is questionable with a shoulder injury.
American League
CHICAGO WHITE SOX--Agreed to terms with Carlton Fisk, catcher, on a one-year contract.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS--Agreed to terms with Pat Listach, shortstop, and Cal Eldred and Rob Wishnevski, pitchers, on one-year contracts.

MINNESOTA TWINS--Agreed to terms with Terry Jorgensen, third baseman; Scott Erickson, Pat Mahomes, Mike Trombley and Willie Banks, pitchers; Chuck Knoblauch, second baseman; Scott Leius, shortstop; Pedro Munoz, J.T. Bruett and Pat Howell, outfielders, and Derek Parks and Lenny Webster, catchers, on one-year contracts.

TEXAS RANGERS--Agreed to terms with Juan Gonzalez, outfielder; Ivan Rodriguez, catcher, and Dean Palmer, third baseman on one-year contracts.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS--Agreed to terms with Turner Ward and Robert Perez, outfielders, on one-year contracts.
National League
COLORADO ROCKIES--Agreed to terms with Braulio Castillo, outfielder, on a one-year contract.

MONTREAL EXPOS--Renewed the contract of Moises Alou, outfielder; Brian Barnes, pitcher; Greg Colbrunn, first baseman, and Raul Santana, catcher. Agreed to terms with Jeff Fassero and Reid Cornelius, pitchers, and Wil Cordero, shortstop.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES--Agreed to terms with Mickey Morandini, second baseman; Kim Batiste, shortstop, and Ruben Amaro, outfielder, on one-year contracts.

SAN DIEGO PADRES--Agreed to terms with Rich Rodriguez and Erik Schullstrom, pitchers, and Jay Gainer, Ray Holbert, Luis Lopez and Dave Staton, infielders.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS--Agreed to terms with Royce Clayton, shortstop; Darren Lewis, center fielder; Bryan Hickerson, pitcher, and Ted Wood, outfielder, on one-year contracts.
National Basketball Association
DENVER NUGGETS--Placed Todd Lichti, guard, on the injured list. Activated Gary Plummer, forward, from the injured list.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS--Placed Alton Lister, center, on the injured list. Signed Barry Stevens, guard, to a 10-day contract.
National Football League
MIAMI DOLPHINS--Signed Bernard Ford, wide receiver; Cedric Smith, running back; Chuck Carswell, cornerback; Charles Hope, guard, and Doug Pederson, quarterback.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS--Waived Fred Smerlas, nose tackle, Gregg Rakoczy, guard, and Ivy Joe Hunter, running back. Signed Reggie Dwight, tight end, and Mike Gisler, guard.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS--Signed Mark Didio, wide receiver, and David Hargett, defensive back.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS--Signed Willie McClendon, running back.
National Hockey League
NHL--Suspended Mario Roberge, Montreal left wing, for one game and fined him $500 and the Canadiens $760 for injuring Boston's Darin Kimble, in an altercation Monday.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS--Named Jack Kelley senior executive assistant to the Penguins president.
TENNIS -- Newsweek Champions Cup, early-round matches, 2 p.m., ESPN.

GOLF -- Doral Ryder Open, first round, from Miami, 4 p.m., USA.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL -- Florida State at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m., ESPN; South Florida at Southern Mississippi, 8 p.m., Empire; Arizona State at Stanford, 10 p.m., Empire; Arizona vs. California at Oakland, Calif., midnight, ESPN.

SPORTS AWARDS -- American Sports Awards (Espys), honoring teams, players and memorable plays, from New York, 9 p.m., ESPN.

NBA -- Utah Jazz at New York Knicks, 7 p.m., In10; 7:30 p.m., MSG; Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers, 7:30 p.m., TBS.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL -- West Virginia at St. Bonaventure, 7:30 p.m., 1450, FM 95.7; Northwestern at Indiana, 8 p.m., 1520.

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