11/10/2004 12:00AM

Flurry of action for boxing afficionados


LAS VEGAS - With all the fights scheduled this month, boxing fans are sure to get their fix.

Whoops, that might be a poor choice of words since the sport's top story this past week was Monday's conviction in a Nevada courtroom of boxer Thomas Williams and matchmaker Robert Mitchell on one count of conspiracy to commit sports bribery and one count of sports bribery and attempted sports bribery. Prosecutors alleged the pair fixed 11 fights across the country between March 1995 and August 2000 in an attempt to advance the career of heavyweight Richie "The Bull" Melito Jr. The last fight was on Aug. 12, 2000, when Melito knocked out Williams at the Paris Las Vegas in the first round on the undercard of an Evander Holyfield-John Ruiz WBA title bout promoted by Don King.

Those last three names - not involved in the legal case - resurface this Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York as King trots out most of his top heavyweights (sans Lamon Brewster) on a four-fight card being dubbed "The Battle for Supremacy."

Ruiz puts his WBA belt on the line vs. Andrew Golota. Station Casinos has Ruiz as a -140 favorite (bet $1.40 to win $1) with Golota at +110 (profit $1.10 for every $1 wagered).

Holyfield is pick-em (-115 on both sides) in a non-title bout with Larry Donald.

Chris Byrd, the fighter who many thought would be the next great heavyweight but who hasn't lived up to the hype, will try to defend his IBF belt against Jameel McCline. Byrd, a -210 favorite, is coming off two controversial decisions.

The other fight is between former champ Hasim Rahman - who knocked out Lennox Lewis in 2000 but has been a flop ever since with losses to Lewis, Holyfield, and Ruiz - and Kali Meehan, the former sparring partner of Lamon Brewster who lost to Brewster but showed some promise. Rahman has been bet up to a -300 favorite.

* Vegas boxing bettors love wagering all fights, but there's an added excitement in the air when the bouts are here. That happens the next two Saturdays as Ronald "Winky" Wright (-250) battles Shane Mosley (+200) for the WBA light heavyweight title on Nov. 20 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and Erik Morales (-175) takes on Marco Antonio Barrera (+145) for the WBC and IBF super featherweight titles on Nov. 27 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Next month, Vitali Klitschko (-400) puts his WBC heavyweight belt on the line vs. Danny Williams (+300) on Dec. 11 at Mandalay Bay.

Shaq fuels Heat betting fever

The NBA season is little more than a week old, but future books are already being adjusted from the early results and early betting.

A week before the season started, the Miami Heat were offered around town in the neighborhood of 7-1 to 9-1. Good luck finding those odds now after the Heat's 4-0 start. Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which opened Miami at 25-1 back in June and had them at 7-1 before the season, has adjusted its odds on the Heat down to 5-1, and Station Casinos had them down to 4-1 on Wednesday. Station has the Spurs and Pistons as co-favorites at 7-2 as the only teams rated ahead of the Heat. The Timberwolves are 5-1, followed by the Pacers at 6-1, Lakers at 8-1, Mavericks at 9-1, and the Rockets and Kings both at 10-1.

Nascar speeds into final two laps

With two races to go in the Nascar Nextel Cup season, Kurt Busch is the even-money favorite to win the driver's title. He just needs to finish in the top nine of the two remaining races to clinch the title.

Jimmie Johnson is the 7-5 second choice and is the 9-2 favorite for this Sunday's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Jeff Gordon is the third choice at 8-5, but his chances look strong as he has six career wins at Darlington. Gordon is the 6-1 second choice in Sunday's race.

The only other driver with a legitimate chance at the season-long title is Dale Earnhardt Jr., at 3-1. He is 10-1 on Sunday.

Oddsmakers share views at Stardust

Friday night's Stardust Invitational handicapping tournament features two respected oddsmakers. Jimmy Vaccaro, former head man at The Mirage and now back in town as publicity man for Leroy's Sports Books, takes on Cesar Robaina, an independent odds-maker who was formerly the top oddsmaker for LVSC. The show takes place live in the Stardust sports book with host John Kelly from 9-10 p.m. Pacific and is broadcast live on KDWN AM-720 in nine Western states and worldwide on kdwn.com

After the show, Vaccaro and Kelly will go across the street to the Riviera, where they co-host the "Leroy's Sports Hour."

Last week, professional poker player-turned-sports bettor Brent Carter went 6-1 to defeat handicapper/author Trace Fields (5-2) in the first quarterfinal match of the $10,000 winner-take-all, single-elimination tournament.

Speaking of hot handicappers . . .

Last Friday, I mentioned that Dave Cokin and Ron Frazier were tearing it up on Sunday night's "Stardust Line" show. They give out three college picks a week using the lines available at the end of the show, which airs from 10 p.m. to midnight on KDWN. Well, last week Cokin went 3-0 and Frazier was 2-1.

This week, Cokin, who is 23-7 (77 percent) on the year, went with Arkansas State -6 1/2 vs. Utah State (Thursday night), Texas -20 vs. Kansas, and UAB -8 1/2 vs. Houston. Frazier, who is 21-8 (72 percent), used Wisconsin -7 vs. Michigan State, Utah -21 1/2 vs. Wyoming, and Auburn -4 1/2 vs. Georgia.

* Plays from the leaders in the top handicapping contests in town, along with consensus plays of all contestants, are available at the sports books after their respective deadlines: Las Vegas Hilton (Friday afternoon), Station Casinos (late Saturday morning), and Golden Nugget (by 6 p.m. Saturday).