The usual amount of pomp and circumstance was on display on the dais yesterday, when the principals for Friday's boxing card at MCI Center took part in one of the sport's tried and true rituals--the pre-fight news conference.

The main events for the Don King-promoted card are a pair of middleweight bouts featuring two of the city's four world champions. Silver Spring's William Joppy (27-1-1) defends his World Boxing Association title against Julio Cesar Green (25-3) in what will be their third meeting, with each fighter having won once. Washington's Keith Holmes (33-2) defends his World Boxing Council belt against Landover's Andrew Council (30-6-3) in a rematch of their 1994 fight that ended with Holmes taking a unanimous decision.

Joppy and Holmes both predicted victory.

"This first time I fought Green [in 1997, when Green handed him his only loss, by decision], I broke my knuckle in the third round. My hand was still sore for the second fight--and I still won," Joppy said. "This time, I'm 110 percent and I'm going all out."

"Council's not going to do anything to surprise me," Holmes said. "The first time we fought, it was probably closer than it should have been. This time, I've been training for three months, I'm in great shape and I will control the fight. I won't predict a knockout, but I won't leave any doubt either." . . .

Another area card comes Sept. 30, when Michael's 8th Avenue opens its fall season with Landover's Fields brothers--undefeated lightweight Jermaine and junior middleweight Anthony--sharing top billing for a card in Glen Burnie. Jermaine Fields (17-0) will meet Rockville's Theon Holland (9-12). Anthony Fields (13-1) faces Darrian Maciunski (16-6). . . .

HBO's pay-per-view telecast of Felix Trinidad's victory over Oscar De La Hoya set a record for a non-heavyweight fight with 1.25 million buys and more than $64 million in revenue. The previous mark was 800,000 buys and $34 million from the 1997 fight between De La Hoya and Pernell Whitaker, according to TVKO, the pay-per-view arm of HBO Sports.


Connors Slams Agassi

Jimmy Connors says Andre Agassi doesn't deserve to be mentioned "in the same breath" with him and other tennis greats.

Connors criticized Agassi, who won the U.S. Open this month and returned to No. 1 in the rankings, for wasting his talent for so long before resurrecting his career this year.

In a conference call with British tennis reporters, Connors bristled when asked if Agassi deserved to be linked with Pete Sampras and retired greats such as himself, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.

"I wouldn't mention his name in the same breath," Connors was quoted in yesterday's newspapers.

Connors also didn't appreciate suggestions that Agassi had modeled his game after him.

"Imitation is the greatest form of flattery but I think they broke the mold when I finished," he said.

Track and Field

Drug Test Spat

The director of the Montreal-based antidoping lab where cocaine was discovered in the system of high jumper Javier Sotomayor said Cuban sports officials are trying to discredit the work of her lab in a bid to get the country's biggest sports hero off the hook.

Sotomayor, the world record-holder in the high jump and the only man to have cleared the eight-foot barrier, was stripped of a gold medal at the Pan American Games last month based on results of a urine test done at Christiane Ayotte's Olympic-approved National Research Institute.

But Cuban sports officials refused to suspend Sotomayor and attacked the credibility of the lab whose services they once used eagerly at bargain prices.

"I'm especially sad about this," Ayotte said Tuesday. "In past years we helped the Cubans a lot with their testing. We offered to do tests for a really low cost because they had no money."


CBA Draft

Arkansas forward Derek Hood was taken by the Quad City Thunder on Tuesday as the No. 1 pick in the Continental Basketball Association draft. Former Maryland swingman Laron Profit, acquired by the Wizards on Tuesday, was chosen by the Connecticut Pride as the final pick in the first round.

Former George Washington players Shawnta Rogers and Yegor Mescheriakov were both taken in the sixth round. Rogers, the 46th overall pick, was selected by the La Crosse Bobcats and Mescheriakov, the 54th pick, was chosen by Connecticut.


San Jose Wins

Ronald Cerritos scored the game-winner early in the second half with his team-record 14th goal as the MLS San Jose Clash defeated the host New York/New Jersey MetroStars, 2-1.


Bruins Sign Axelsson

The Bruins said they have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with holdout LW P.J. Axelsson. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. . . . The Blackhawks re-signed D Anders Eriksson to a one-year contract. . . . Bob Errey, a left wing who played on Mario Lemieux's line when the Penguins' owner was a rookie in 1984, was released by the team.


A Fair Cause

Youth for Tomorrow, a group home founded by former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, will hold its annual Country Fair and Auctions on Saturday from noon to 6:30 p.m. at its Manassas campus at 10105 Linton Hall Rd. Honorary chairman is former Redskins great Art Monk. For information, call 703-739-5920.