Sandoval's Title Is Taken Lightly : Life Isn't So Marvelous for Bantamweight Champion

Times Staff Writer

Bantamweight champion of the world.

It sounds good, so it must count for some thing, right?

That's what Pomona's Richie Sandoval thought, too, late on the night of April 7, 1984, in Atlantic City. That was the night he took the World Boxing Assn. championship away from Jeff Chandler.

"We had a big celebration at the hotel that night," Sandoval said the other day. "The only thing I could think of was that after all the years of work and sacrifice, I'd reached my reward, I'd become the champion of the world, that the big paydays were on their way."

Now, nearly two years since that night, here is what Sandoval says it's like to be the bantamweight champion of the world:

"I feel like I'm always trying to borrow money from strangers, and I hate that feeling. It's almost like begging. I always thought when you became a champion, you're dues had been paid. But it isn't that way at all.

"I almost feel like the promoters think I'll 'keep' for a few years, until some big-name, hotshot young guy comes up and they'll throw me in against him when they think I'm washed up, give me a big payday and say: 'OK, Richie, here's your big chance.' "

Sandoval isn't exactly a welfare case. He earned $50,000 for beating Chandler, $100,000 for beating Cardenio Ulloa and will make at least $37,500 for boxing Texan Gaby Canizales Monday night at Caesars Palace on the undercard of the Marvin Hagler-John Mugabi and Thomas Hearns-James Shuler fights.

But in his sport and even in his own town, Pomona, Sandoval feels not like a world champion but like a stranger. For example:

--On Wednesday, not one member of the promotion staff at Caesars Palace knew where Sandoval was staying here this week or even where he was working out.

Hearns, Mugabi and Shuler have had regularly scheduled public workouts at Caesars all week.

Where's Sandoval? At the Golden Gloves gym, on the other side of town.

He's staying at the Maxim Hotel, down the street. "Caesars told us they ran out of rooms," said his trainer, Tony Cerda.

--About 40 Southern California cable TV stations are carrying Monday's card, but not TCI Pomona Cable Television, in Sandoval's hometown.

"Who's Richie Sandoval?" a station employee asked when a caller questioned why the station wasn't carrying the show.

--The City of Pomona is threatening to evict Sandoval from his Police Athletic League gym, a converted church near Pomona's civic center.

Said Cerda: "Richie brings a world championship to Pomona and what happens? The city kicks him out of his gym, where he's boxed since he was 7 years old."

"It's discouraging," Sandoval said. "I'm a world champion, I'm 29-0 and when I ask people how come I can't get TV dates they make me feel . . . well, like I'm trying to borrow money."

Cerda blames the sporting media, for focusing a disproportionate amount of boxing coverage on "fat heavyweights who've never been in shape in their lives."

He said: "Richie looks around and sees welterweights and middleweights getting seven-digit paydays and can't understand why he's not even close to that yet. He wonders what he has to do.

"Personally, I blame the media. Sportswriters keep writing all the time that there isn't any interest in bantamweights. The network TV guys read that, and they assume the sportswriters must be right."

Bob Arum, who is promoting the Monday show, agrees. At a Beverly Hills news conference a week ago, he lashed out at the networks for not buying Sandoval-Canizales, which had been available for about a year.

"New York-based network TV executives think all Hispanics are Puerto Ricans," Arum said.

New York-based network TV executives heatedly deny that they believe all Hispanics are Puerto Ricans.

"I personally find it offensive (Arum's remark), and I'm sure everyone else at the network finds it offensive," said Alex Wallau, boxing coordinator at ABC.

"We've had Richie on the network twice, so Arum is incorrect in addition to being silly.

"It is true there is a preponderance of heavyweights on network shows. For whatever reason, there is an American fascination with heavyweights. Just look at the ratings. The highest audience share for any TV boxing show last year was Carl Williams-Jesse Ferguson.

"ABC has televised a lot of lighter weight bouts. We had Jeff Chandler on about four times, and we did a lot of (Roberto) Duran fights when he was a young lightweight. The same with Alexis Arguello."

Said NBC boxing coordinator Kevin Monaghan: "We think Sandoval-Canizales is a very attractive fight and we were interested, but our problem is we have only 11 boxing dates budgeted for 1986. We felt each of these fighters lacked a certain marquee value."

CBS boxing coordinator Mort Sharnik said that Sandoval's career has suffered because of former President Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics--Sandoval had made the U.S. Olympic team--and because Sandoval doesn't wear gold jewelry, designer sunglasses and talk a lot.

"The boycott hurt Richie," Sharnik said. "If he'd gone to Moscow and come back with a gold medal, that would have given him a running start, like (Paul) Gonzales got.

"Also, Richie is a quiet kind of kid. He's not as innately charming as, say, Gonzales, Hector Camacho or Arguello."

Gonzales, the East L.A. boxer who won the 1984 Olympic light-flyweight gold medal and was named outstanding boxer of the Olympics, is 3-0 as a pro flyweight and earned $40,000 in his last bout, thanks to CBS.

All is not lost for Sandoval, though, according to Cerda. Sandoval is still only 25, and there is the possibility of some big-money bouts down the road.

"People keep talking to us about an East L.A. Junior College stadium fight between Richie and Paul Gonzales," Cerda said. "Maybe that'll happen in a couple of years.

"But Paul isn't ready for Richie yet. And by the time he is ready, he will have had to grow into a super-bantamweight or a featherweight, because that's what Richie's going to have to do in a year or so. He's starting to have to work pretty hard to get down to 118.

"Actually, we're in the talking stages of a bout with Albert Davila (also of Pomona). That could be a good payday for Richie."

Davila, a former bantamweight champion, vacated his title a couple of years ago because of a back injury, which was later surgically corrected.

But Sandoval and Cerda have an even bigger payday in mind, one they hope would be the richest rumble of little men ever: Sandoval vs. Barry McGuigan, Ireland's WBA featherweight champion.

"When we look at Richie's future over the next few years, McGuigan is the one bout that looks like a really big payday," Cerda said. "And if they both keep winning over the next couple of years, I think it'll come off."

Meanwhile, Sandoval continues to put his money in the bank instead of into gold jewelry, continues with commercial art classes at Mt. San Antonio College and speaks at inner city youth rallies, encouraging kids to stay away from drugs and gangs. Presumably, he helps old ladies cross the street, too.

Clearly, this is definitely not the type of individual you want coming into your home through your TV set.

Boxing Notes Tony Cerda maintains that Marvin Hagler is 37 years old, not 31, as Hagler says. "I had Hagler in an amateur tournament in Boston in 1974 and he said then he was 25," Cerda said. . . . Virgil Hill, middleweight silver medalist at the Los Angeles Olympics, is now a 6-0 light-heavyweight in Las Vegas and earning $10 a round this week sparring with James Shuler. . . . No member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing team has lost as a pro. . . . Promoter Bob Arum says his Hagler-Hearns show at Caesars last year came in No. 3 on the all-time money list, which looks like this: 1. Holmes-Cooney, $38 million. 2. Leonard-Hearns, $36 million. 3. Hagler-Hearns, $32.5 million. . . . Thomas Hearns, John Mugabi and Shuler have had public workouts all week in the Caesars pavilion, with the $2 admission money going to the USA Amateur Boxing Federation. . . . NBC's Kevin Monaghan, on Hector Camacho's immediate future: "We think Hector's next fights will be in the courtroom--he's got contractual problems with Don King."

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