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Boxing / Richard Hoffer : Duran Just Keeps Coming Back

Old fighters never die. They just make comebacks.

So it is that Roberto Duran, pushing 35, and a husk of his former greatness, is in the ring again. Evidently, it will take more than a two-round knockout to keep him down.

Duran, who last engaged our attention when he was flattened by Thomas Hearns last year, is coming back to fight Robbie Sims on the so-called Triple Hitter at Las Vegas June 23. The idea of this particular comeback is to maneuver past Sims and get a fight with Sims’ older brother, an hombre named Marvelous Marvin Hagler, world middleweight champion.

Of course, this is against all logic, since Hagler already holds a decision over Duran. But then, what does logic have to do with boxing, and especially Duran? All Duran knows is that it got kind of boring down in Panama City. Nothing to do but eat and play bongos in his salsa band, Felicidad.

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And fighters like Alexis Arguello and Wilfred Benitez kept coming out of retirement for their fourth titles. Why shouldn’t he?

“Also,” he says, “a boxer can always use the money.”

This statement recalls earlier reports that he had become flat broke, or just fat broke. He and his handlers vehemently deny all of this, except for the fat part. Said his manager, Luis Spada: “He still has property, six or seven cars and jewelry.”

And a friend recalled that the stories really began when he sold an Excalibur in Panama for a bargain price. Truth was, the Excalibur wasn’t worth much in Panama. It didn’t fit on the street.

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“I tell you how poor he is,” the friend said. “I once ask to borrow his car down there--borrow--and he says take it, it’s mine.”

The real reason he’s coming back, says Duran, a cheerful man despite his usual wild looks, is that he knows he’s better than the fighter who reposed under Hearns’ long right arm.

“I was paying too much attention to my band,” he said of that meeting. “I just came in for training two months before. I was a little heavy at the time.”

Heavy? The man who ruled the lightweight division for nearly a decade had been up to 210. Now, he is already at a fighting weight of 160. And has been there for a while. This is no crash diet this time. He weighed 165 for his first comeback fight in January.

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So he trains confidently in the heat here, in tranquility that does not suit his legend. Every day, he treks to a local video rental store, looking for some martial arts or horror film he doesn’t already own. He has 5,000 tapes in his home. And every day, he sits down for his game of checkers with Spada.

And every day he dreams of title No. 4.

Boxing Notes Besides the Roberto Duran-Robbie Sims fight, there will be two title fights on the Caesars Palace card. Thomas Hearns, who is waiting for a November rematch with Marvelous Marvin Hagler, will defend his World Boxing Council super-welterweight title against Mark Medal. Medal briefly held the International Boxing Federation version of the title. Also, World Boxing Assn. featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, the Clones Cyclone, will defend his title against Steve Cruz, a substitute for Fernando Sosa.

Duran has actually had two fights since his comeback began, two knockout wins in Panama City. However he disputes that he is making a comeback, at all. “I never announced a retirement,” he says. . . . Greg Page, once a glittering prospect in the heavyweight division, has now lost five of his last six fights, and not all to contenders either. He ought to quit. It’s not that he’s fat, which he was once again when Mark Wills chilled him after nine at the Forum the other night. He’s always fought fat. But his hand speed was always sensational. Now? He’s just not quick any more. Also, if there is any measure of a man’s dedication to his sport, it is certainly in whether he will get up off a stool to fight. Page didn’t.

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Page’s line in the ninth round when, dazed, he decided not to fight any more, ranks right up there. He told his puzzled handlers, “It’s only practice.” It recalls a line spoken by one of Joe Louis’ victims. After getting back to his corner he said, “Honey, I’m going up on the roof for some fresh air.”

The California State Athletic Commission, evidently looking for a little publicity, recently named former football star Rosey Grier to the commission. Grier has yet to attend a commission meeting. . . . John Montes will fight Rickey Lehman in the Irvine Marriott main event June 30. Also on the card, a bout between Joey Olivera and Felipe Sanchez. Promoter Don Fraser, meanwhile, is talking to officials at the new Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills about boxing there. . . . In the Valley here and now, Walter Sims will headline at the Reseda Country Club Tuesday night. He’ll fight Raul Bencomo.


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