06/20/2001 11:00PM

A low-profile award show


Oscar De La Hoya will try to take away the WBC super welterweight title from Javier Castillejo at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. As of Thursday at the MGM, De La Hoya was a prohibitive favorite at -1250 (bet $12.50 to win $1) with Castillejo at +850 (bet $1 to win $8.50).

Oddsmakers obviously think Castillejo will be seeing stars because the price is -200 (bet $2 to win $1) on a De La Hoya knockout.

Both fighters will be seeing different kinds of stars if they glance into the audience. Championship bouts always attract celebrities from the sports and entertainment fields, and there might be more on hand than usual if enough limos are available to transport them from the Las Vegas Hilton.

You see, Saturday night is also the Victor Awards, an event honoring sports excellence from the past year. There's a chance you've never heard of the Victor Awards, so you might be thinking that this must be one of the new wave of awards shows that seem to be on TV every week.

In fact, the Victor Awards is the longest-running sports awards show on television. It started in 1966, the same year as the Super Bowl. TV listings here in Las Vegas refer to it as Victor Awards XXXV. The event will air from 5-7 p.m. Pacific Time on Fox Sports Net (check your local listings).

But don't kick yourself if you didn't know it was coming up. There hasn't exactly been a media blitz to get the word out. In fact, as of noon Thursday, I couldn't even find a mention of it on the foxsports.com website. The site didn't even list it under its programming for Saturday.

ESPN, on the other hand, promotes the heck out of the ESPYs. They bill it as the "greatest night in sports" and make sports fans feel like it's must-see TV.

But that doesn't make the Victor Awards any less of a major events for the biggest sports stars. Recent winners and attendees haven't been slouches: Michael Jordan, Pat Riley, Wayne Gretzky, Pedro Martinez, John Elway, and Randy Moss.

Proceeds from the sale of $50 tickets for the black-tie affair go to the City of Hope Medical Center and Beckman Research Institute.

City of Hope is one of the world's leading research and treatment centers for cancer and other serious diseases, including diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

Organizers are a little tight-lipped about who will attend - partly to keep suspense over who will win, but also because you never know who is going to blow off an event like this at the last minute. But here's a short list: Tommy Lasorda, Meadowlark Lemon, Olympic swimmers Lenny Krayzelburg and Dara Torres, and softball pitcher Lori Harrigan (Las Vegas's own), who threw a perfect game in Sydney. They're all receiving special awards.

Shaquille O'Neal was an honoree last year and he was in town Tuesday for the BET Awards (the newest of the new awards shows) at the Paris Las Vegas, so there's a good chance he will continue celebrating of the Lakers' NBA title here this weekend.

Surprisingly, O'Neal is not up for the Pro Basketball Player of the Year Award. The nominees are Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Webber. Finalists in other top categories that are voted on by the National Academy of Sports Editors include Pro Football Player of the Year (Marshall Faulk, Eddie George, and Rich Gannon) and Boxer of the Year (Felix Trinidad, Roy Jones Jr, and "Sugar" Shane Mosley).

In all, there are 38 categories in 15 sports. Other notable nominees include Tiger Woods, Marion Jones, Venus Williams, Cynthia Cooper, and Mario Lemieux. Woods is playing at the Buick Classic in New York, so don't expect to see him unless he misses his first cut this century.