Berbick asks to stay in Canada

MONTREAL -- Former WBC heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick asked an Immigration Court on Monday to stay his deportation order for three years so he can work in the community and show he should be allowed to remain in Canada. The 47-year-old Berbick presented himself to an immigration appeals tribunal as the victim of conspiracies wrought by his ex-wife, a former lawyer and former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. He said he wanted to stay in "the country that gave me the opportunity to be all I can be." Lawyer Neil Drabkin added that Berbick should not be deported because he has represented Canada in the ring for more than 20 years and can contribute to society by working with troubled youth. He said that if Berbick stays out of trouble for three years, he would then ask to remain in Canada permanently. Drabkin has lined up mostly character witnesses for the hearing, expected to last three days, including a United Church minister, a black community leader and some youths the fighter has begun to work with. Diane Clement, lawyer for the Citizenship and Immigration Ministry, said Berbick showed little commitment to Canada before he ran into legal problems in the United States and should not be allowed to stay. Berbick, who won the Canadian heavyweight title last February despite his cloudy citizenship status, was ordered deported to his native Jamaica more than a year ago due to criminal convictions in the United States. The tribunal also heard that Berbick was deported from the United States to Jamaica on June 27, 1997, but returned instead to Canada. "I've been framed," Berbick said after Clement went over his convictions. "But I'm not worried. I know I'm free and clean and not a bad person." Berbick, who moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia after fighting for Jamaica at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, went to the United States after building an international reputation with victories over John Tate and an aging Muhammad Ali in the early 1980s. He was convicted of sexual battery against a woman he said he lived with five weeks after his second wife left him and served 15 months of a four-year sentence in a Florida penitentiary. He denied assaulting the woman, whom he called an "informer" in league with his wife and whom he said he later learned was working for Holmes, "a guy I have serious problems with in America." Berbick added that his lawyer at the time was "working with the prosecution" and did not know why Holmes had become his enemy. An exasperated looking Clement found that Berbick was uncertain of the ages of his three children in Florida (he also had three with his first wife in Halifax) and didn't know if he had filed income tax returns. During a break when lawyers discussed whether some evidence was complete, Berbick fell asleep in the witness chair. Berbick was listed as an "absconder" by the Florida State Corrections Department as recently as last summer, but the listing for parole violations was lifted on Aug. 20, a spokesman said. Berbick won the WBC heavyweight title from Pinklon Thomas in 1986, only to lose it to Mike Tyson in his next fight. His career record is 48-10-1, including a victory over Iran Barkley in his last fight, June 30 in Montreal. He is scheduled to fight Shazzon Bradley, an American fighting out of Montreal, on an all-heavyweight card Oct. 29 in Montreal.