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Bonecrusher wants Myrtle Beach Mayor Rhodes in the ring

Former heavyweight champion of the world James "Bonecrusher" Smith wants Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes in the ring with him.

"There are some people in town who think I'm going to hit you real hard one time," Smith told Rhodes at Tuesday's City Council workshop.

But the man who defeated Tim Witherspoon to win the WBA title in 1986 said the fight between him and Rhodes would be just for fun - a staged event for a press conference to build up excitement for his plans.

Smith, who now lives in Myrtle Beach, told the City Council he wants to arrange a "fantasy fight" with other past world champions in 2011 and start a local mentoring program for young people in the area who would like to learn to box.

Smith has aspirations to match his size - he said he wants to advertise the fantasy fight worldwide and bring people from all over; he wants to start a boxing hall of fame here; and he wantschildren all over the world to be inspired by his mentoring camp.

"I'm not asking you for any money," he told the city, while pledging a "tithe" of 10 percent of his profits to Myrtle Beach. "I just want your support - and give me the mayor."

Smith is holding a fantasy fight night in North Myrtle Beach this fall but said by next year, the event will need a bigger venue. He wants to use the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and said he already has professional boxers and former champs interested in coming.

He provided few specifics about the event or his other plans but said, "I want to show kids that if you work hard and make good decisions, you can be a success."

Council members weren't asked to make a decision about Smith's plans, and they weren't ready to make a decision about electronic message signs and digital billboards Tuesday, either.

Though they were scheduled to give final approval to an ordinance permitting the digital billboards and electronic changeable-copy signs, some said if they had to vote Tuesday, they would vote no.

Councilman Wayne Gray said he wanted more time to study the specifics of the proposed ordinance that would allow digital billboards in exchange for sign companies removing some of the city's traditional billboards.

The proposal now calls for swapping one digital billboard for two traditional ones, but Gray said he might ask the city to consider trading three regular billboards for one electric one.

Councilman Phil Render said he also wanted more time to study and think about the ordinance.

"My stamp on this community is not going to be unfettered flashing signs," he said.

Both said they want to hear more from the sign companies, want to see an inventory of the city's current billboards and want to think about where to allow the new billboards.

The ordinance before the council Tuesday said if any sign company planned to put up a digital billboard, it would have to remove two existing traditional billboard structures and then could convert one other regular billboard into a digital sign.

No new locations for digital signage would be approved.

John Tinker, owner of Coastal Outdoor Advertising, said it would be difficult to make money if his company has to remove two traditional billboards, and requiring him to remove more would make it impossible.

However, he said, he's convinced the plan to reduce visual clutter is good for the city.

Render, though, isn't convinced about the digital signs.

"It's an unknown how these will impact our community," he said.

The federal transportation department is studying the impact on driver distraction, and the results of the research should be released this fall.

The city will hold a special workshop later this month with the owners of area sign companies to talk further about the issue.

In other business, city budget director Michael Shelton showed council members a mock-up of this fall's Horry County tax notices, which will be sent out in October and November and include the city's nearly 90 percent property tax credit for owner-occupied residences in Myrtle Beach.

The credit will show in two places on the notice exactly how much they are saving. The example shows an address that would owe $515.20 in city property tax receiving a credit of $456.80, leaving the property owner a charge of $58.40 in city millage.

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