Boxer Leavander Johnson died yesterday from injuries sustained five days earlier in a lightweight title fight with Jesus Chavez.

Johnson, 35, died at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he had been hospitalized since being injured in the fight Saturday night at the MGM Grand hotel-casino.

Johnson was put in a medically induced coma after undergoing brain surgery less than an hour after his fight with Chavez. Doctors were initially unsure he would make it through the night, but the next day expressed cautious optimism after tests showed improvement in brain function.

Johnson was defending the IBF title he won in June against Chavez, but took a beating before finally being stopped by a flurry of punches in the 11th round.

He walked from the ring, but on the way to the dressing room began showing signs of an injury. He was rushed to UMC, where he was operated on to relieve pressure from a subdural hematoma, or bleeding on the brain.

* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Maryland linebacker/defensive end Trey Covington, who made nine tackles in his first career start against West Virginia last Saturday, will start tomorrow's game against Wake Forest, Coach Ralph Friedgen said.

Jermaine Lemons, who started ahead of Covington in Maryland's first two games, continues to play through a sprained knee; he and freshman Barrod Heggs will back up Covington.

Starting center Ryan McDonald cut his knee in yesterday's practice but was able to walk off the field. Freshman wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has rarely played, is suffering from an undisclosed illness; his availability is unclear. . . .

The NCAA has approved the use of video replay review of on-field officials' calls during all 28 Division I-A bowl games. . . .

Reggie McNeal threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns, and host Texas A&M beat Texas State, 44-31 . . .

Brian Johnson passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns and ran for three scores, and Utah avoided its first losing streak in three years by beating visting Air Force, 38-35.

* HOCKEY: Atlanta Thrashers forward Patrik Stefan was released from the hospital, a day after a collision in a preseason game against Carolina. Stefan underwent a CT scan that showed no serious injury, the team said. . . .

Adam Deadmarsh retired from the NHL because of post-concussion syndrome, ending a 10-year career .

* AUTO RACING: NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said that Mike Helton, the sanctioning organization's president, will tell the drivers prior to Sunday's race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway that on-track retaliation will no longer be tolerated and that they will risk being suspended.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports

Venus Williams cruises to the quarterfinals of the China Open with a win over Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives.