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MCCALL KO'S BRITAIN'S BEST FIGHTER

Lennox Lewis called Oliver McCall just a sparring partner. Now he can call him champion.

McCall pulled a stunning upset early Sunday morning when he knocked down Lewis with a crunching right hand counter to the jaw and stopped the British boxer 31 seconds into the second round to win the WBC heavyweight title.The punch dropped Lewis on the seat of his pants. The champion struggled up, but referee Lupe Garcia of Mexico made a standing 8-count then wrapped his hands around the defending champion and stopped the fight.

"Most people look at McCall and see a sparring partner," McCall, a 51/2-1 underdog, said before the fight.

They no longer will say that.

"I was never a sparring partner," McCall said defiantly after the fight, arguing that he was more than a mere punching bag for the men he sparred. "I got the best of every (sparring) round - Tyson, everyone."

Lewis was furious that the fight was stopped.

"I was totally robbed," he said. "I was cleared to fight on."

He did, however, appear to be badly hurt when the referee signaled the end. "It was a counter right hand dead on the nose," a jubilant McCall said. "I talked to Mike Tyson on the phone before the fight and he kept saying, `Throw the right hook! Throw the right hook!"' McCall said.

The previously unbeaten Lewis, the only British boxer to hold even a piece of the heavyweight title this century, had thrown a couple of punches and started a hook when McCall came over the top with a right hook that dropped him and sent an estimated crowd of 7,000 home in disbelief.

"It was a lucky shot," a dejected Lewis said. "I can't believe it. The referee asked me if I was okay - and it was over. I thought it was an awfully fast count."

The stunning victory knocked Lewis out of a megabuck defense against Riddick Bowe, the former undisputed champion, that was being talked about for March. Michael Moorer holds the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles and is scheduled to fight George Foreman in November.

Before the fight, Lewis had called McCall a sparring partner and said: "He's there to be hit."

It was the 29-year-old Lewis, however, that got hit.

McCall, who was supposed to make $1 million, improved to 25-5 with 18 knockouts. Lewis, whose purse was $3.5 million, now has a 25-1 record with 21 knockouts.