Orlin Norris, who despite a winning record and world title has boxed in the shadow of brother Terry, will be Mike Tyson's first opponent since his release from a Maryland jail.

The 12-round fight Oct. 23 is signed for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and will be televised on Showtime, a source close to Tyson, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press yesterday.

Norris was a second choice to fight the 33-year-old former undisputed heavyweight champion. James "Buster" Douglas, who knocked out Tyson in a shocking upset in 1990, appeared to be the first choice but was ruled out for being in poor physical condition.

Norris has a 50-5 record with 27 knockouts since turning pro in 1986. . . .

Laila Ali, Muhammad Ali's youngest daughter, will make her professional debut Oct. 8 at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York. Her opponent has not been announced. . . .

Undefeated International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champion Fernando Vargas and four other men pleaded not guilty to assault charges.

Vargas, 21, and the others are charged with assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime stemming from a July 25 altercation. Conviction could carry a prison term of almost eight years.

Eight days before the incident, Vargas ran his record to 17-0, with 17 knockouts, by defeating Raul Marquez.


Euro 2000 Qualifying

Spain, Norway and Sweden qualified for next summer's European championship finals, World Cup champion France clung on to hopes of qualifying and England looked down and out.

The Spaniards gained a place in the group of 16 qualifiers with an 8-0 victory over Cyprus. Norway crushed second-place Slovenia, 4-0, to clinch the top spot in Group 2 while Sweden did the bare minimum, a 1-0 victory at Luxembourg, to clinch Group 5.

France stayed in contention with a 3-2 victory over lightly regarded Armenia in Group 4. Ukraine, which won 1-0 at Iceland, and Russia, which downed Andorra 2-1, lead the group.

England had David Batty sent off near the end in a grim 0-0 tie with Poland, its final game. Poland needs only a tie in its final game against Sweden to clinch a playoff spot and put England out. (Scores on Page D9)


Banged-Up Knicks

Patrick Ewing's torn Achilles' tendon is healed but the New York Knicks are unsure when their star center will be able to return to the court.

To make matters worse for the team, backup center Chris Dudley sprained ligaments in his right knee playing basketball Tuesday. He will begin rehabilitating the knee immediately and can begin running again in four to six weeks, a Knicks spokeswoman, Lori Hamamoto, said Wednesday.

It is unclear whether Ewing or Dudley will be ready for training camp, which begins Oct. 5. . . .

Nets rookie forward-center Evan Eschmeyer ruptured a shoulder muscle while working out at home and will have surgery today. His status will be evaluated after that.


Gardens Torn Down?

Maple Leaf Gardens, the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, could be sold and demolished because it can't make money or attract events, its owner said.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., which owns the Maple Leafs hockey team and Toronto Raptors basketball team, said it's inviting redevelopment ideas or bids for the 15-story arena, which opened in 1931 and was designated a historic landmark in 1990.

The company will begin accepting bids in about a month and the bid process will last 45 days, said Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment. Since the Maple Leafs played their final game there on Feb. 20, the arena has hosted 40 events.

The Leafs and the Raptors play home games in the $260 million Canadian Air Canada Centre.

High Schools

Oliver to Virginia

All-Met soccer player Matt Oliver, a senior at DeMatha and captain of the national under-18 team, yesterday said he has orally committed to play for Virginia.