The biggest name in boxing promotion wasn't on Capitol Hill but still was a significant factor yesterday as a House committee voted to crack down on the fight business.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) suggested the legislation was intended to target Don King, a larger-than-life personality who for three decades has promoted fights for everyone from Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson.

Another congressman said he wanted to toughen the legislation by having it ban felons from involvement in boxing, but opted not to, because of King.

Rep. Ralph Hall (D-Tex.) said he tried to move a no-felons amendment to an earlier boxing bill but it became too controversial because people called it the "King amendment."

Hall said that wasn't the intent, even though, "I have mixed feelings about Mr. King."

The legislation, which now can be positioned for a vote in the full House, is intended to protect young fighters from exploitation by eliminating so-called coercive contracts, in which a boxer is required to sign away rights for more than 12 months or grant rights to another promoter as a condition of getting to fight a particular bout.

It also includes conflict of interest rules and would require promoters, judges, referees and sanctioning bodies to fill out financial disclosure forms.

In response to the outcry over the Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis heavyweight title fight March 13, the measure would require all boxing referees and judges to be certified and approved by state boxing commissions. In addition, the bill specifies that boxers can be suspended for unsportsmanlike conduct.


Cup Runs Over

Boorish conduct by U.S. fans at the Ryder Cup didn't stop at the course.

The American caddie for European Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia said yesterday he was attacked in a hotel bar after the tournament and had to go to a hospital with a head wound.

Jerry Higginbotham, sporting a black eye and bruised cheek, said several men taunted him because he was an American working with the European team.

"One of the guys had obviously had a bad day and had definitely had too much to drink," said Higginbotham, caddie this week for Garcia in the German Masters.

Police in Boston and Brookline, Mass., said they have no record of the attack.

Higginbotham, who caddied for American Mark O'Meara at the 1997 Ryder Cup in Spain, described the attack in the hotel bar.

"He said some things I didn't like and I said a couple of things back to him because I'll always defend myself," he said. "And then boom, he comes up on the blind side and down I went, hitting my head on the way down."

Higginbotham took some of the blame.

"What I should have done was walk away," he said, "but the whole thing leaves a sour taste in the mouth."


Athens Defends Itself

With the IOC in Athens for the first time since the city was awarded the 2004 Olympics two years ago, organizers are trying to dispel reports of delays and disorganization.

Although organizers claim preparations are on schedule, one president already has quit, local media report Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis is unhappy with preparations, and the government denies rumors the general manager may step down.

"We are right where we should be, right on time. There is a schedule that we are following that does not allow a lot of delays," said George Kazantzopoulos, a member of the projects coordination division.

Organizers hope to show there are no delays to the IOC executive board, which holds four days of meetings starting Friday. It's the first board meeting in Athens since the games were awarded in September 1997.


Hingis Celebrates

Top-ranked Martina Hingis gave herself an early birthday present when she beat Amelie Mauresmo at the $6.7 million Grand Slam Cup in Munich, the richest tournament in tennis.

Hingis, who turns 19 today, won, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2, in a repeat of the match the two played in the Australian Open final.

Tommy Haas, fresh from helping Germany remain in the top division of the Davis Cup, rolled past Dominik Hrbaty, 6-3, 6-2, to set up a men's quarterfinal showdown today with top-ranked Andre Agassi. Agassi, the U.S. Open champion, had a first-round bye.

Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador overcame Fernando Meligeni of Brazil, 6-4, 2-6, 16-14. The third set was the longest in the 10 years of the tournament, which does not use a tiebreaker in the decisive set, and took 1 hour 47 seconds. It was also the longest set on the tour this year.


Top Pick Chooses Canada

David Tanabe, the Carolina Hurricanes' top draft pick, has decided to play for a junior league team in Canada rather than sign with Carolina, a newspaper reported.

While the 19-year-old defenseman played well enough in the exhibition season to earn a spot on Carolina's 23-man roster, Tanabe's agent and the Hurricanes could not agree on a contract, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

Tanabe was in street clothes Tuesday night as the Hurricanes defeated the Washington Capitals, 2-0, in Norfolk.

"I was a little taken aback by the offer the team made," Tanabe said, referring to a three-year contract with a signing bonus of $500,000. "You come in and have a good camp and you expect the team to make a better offer."

Tanabe, the 16th overall pick in the June amateur draft, said he expected an offer comparable to what the 17th pick, defenseman Barret Jackman, got from the Blues: a $1 million signing bonus and a three-year deal worth $2.65 million. . . .

Dave Gagner, who played for six teams during his 15-year NHL career, announced his retirement.

The 34-year-old unrestricted free agent played for the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars-Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks.


Court Dedication

Wizards players Isaac Austin and Chris Whitney will dedicate a newly refurbished basketball court to the Kelly Miller Court Project today in the District at 4 p.m. The ceremony will be held at Kelly Miller Courts at 49th Street SE.

Auto Racing

Crew Chief Leaves

Jeff Gordon lost his crew chief when Ray Evernham was released from his contract with Hendrick Motorsports.

Evernham oversaw the development of Gordon from a talented but raw rookie in 1993 to a three-time Winston Cup champion and winner of 47 races in five-plus seasons.

Evernham was under contract with Hendrick through the 2006 season, but in recent weeks decided he wanted to leave the team, which has not done as well this season as in the past. Gordon, the defending Winston Cup champion, is sixth in the driver standings and has virtually no chance of winning the title again.