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Boxing / Richard Hoffer : Pinango Has Two Hometowns and Still Doesn’t Fight in Either One

Bernardo Pinango, who hails from Caracas, Venezuela, but lives in Panama City and fights everywhere else, is largely unconcerned about the possible effects of a hometown crowd in his World Boxing Assn. title defense Tuesday night at the Forum.

Ten thousand people rooting against him? “They can’t come in through the ropes,” he reasoned. “They can’t help him.”

As in his other title bouts, Pinango will be the bad guy when he fights local hero Frankie Duarte in a bantamweight championship bout. “But I fight out of my country so much, I don’t even notice it,” he said.

Pinango, who wrested the title from Gaby Canizales in the Meadowlands and who has defended it in Italy and South Africa since then, is a true money fighter. “If the money is right, I go,” he said, shrugging. As a result, he has yet to defend in his hometown and, goodness, the man has two of them.

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Pinango, who turns 27 next week, fought on the Venezuelan national team for years, even advancing to the Moscow Olympics, where he won a silver medal. Then he came under the control of veteran fight manager Luis Spada (Roberto Duran, Hilario Zapata) and moved to Panama, where he has lived the last three years.

It is normal for the champion to entertain challengers in the host country, thereby guaranteeing large gates and a partisanship that, sad to say, is sometimes communicated to the judges. But Pinango couldn’t care less. Anyway, he doesn’t often let the decision go to the judges. His 20-2-2 record includes 14 blood-letting knockouts, two of them in both his title defenses.

Pinango, a relentless puncher who doesn’t have the one big punch but lots of stinging little ones, often leaves his opponents bloody, according to Spada. “He’s cut all his opponents,” Spada happily reported. And then Spada provided, in technical detail, eyes exploding and all manner of other gory happenings.

Since Duarte tends to bleed during introductions, the Red Cross has been alerted.

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Pinango will be getting a purse of $65,000 for this bout, which he judges to be on the easy side. And then he intends to fight twice more before retiring this year. He will find a hometown he likes and do all his entertaining there. No more globe-trotting.

Spada, hearing this for the first time the other day, smiled and tapped his temple. “Fighters,” he said.

The WBA bantamweight title fight at the Forum Tuesday hit a little snag last week when the California Athletic Commission and the WBA couldn’t agree on officials.

The WBA staffs title fights with neutral officials, but the state commission insists on at least two California officials. This became a problem because Duarte, the challenger to Pinango’s crown, is decidedly Californian.

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The Forum was sweating it, as it was already out $70,000. Duarte was sweating it. Pinango was sweating it. Only the WBA, which presumably had already collected its sanctioning fees, remained calm and resolute.

So the state commission finally relented and allowed the WBA to pick the officials, none of whom are from California. Executive officer Ken Gray was not happy to do so but said, “We didn’t want to penalize the boxer or the Forum.”

He also said he will urge the commission to make its two-official rule something more than mere policy at its next rules meeting in February.

Boxing Notes

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Comebacks, Update: Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, 39, who hasn’t fought in 10 years, says it’s too cold in France to begin his comeback there. So he’s returning to the States and may fight in Los Angeles. He was to have fought Bob Hitzelburger in Cannes on Friday. . . . Both middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard went into serious training last week for their fight April 6, although Leonard was slowed by a virus that slimmed him down to the low 150s. Leonard’s camp is in Hilton Head, S.C. Hagler is back at Palm Springs, a frequent training site for him. Leonard, who has been sparring periodically, reports he has had five “gym wars” without headgear and with referees. Leonard hasn’t fought since 1984. Hagler, by the way, did not endear himself to promoter Bob Arum by ditching a 12-city tour to promote the fight. “I couldn’t put up with it anymore,” Hagler said after making four cities.

Comebacks, Continued: Jaime Garza, former super-featherweight champion whose comeback had been proceeding apace after a year’s layoff, got picked off last week in a fight at the Irvine Marriott. Darrell Thigpen did it, flattening him four times before the fight was stopped in the sixth round. Promoter Don Fraser was somewhat amazed but managed to take it in stride. “All it does is enhance my credibility as a matchmaker,” he said proudly. Garza is not likely to be taking it as well. He was supposed to enter the Stroh’s lightweight tournament at the Forum, but a 120-day automatic suspension could KO that and the chance for the $50,000 first prize. But then, Garza doesn’t take defeat too well in general. When Juan Meza stopped him in a title defense, Garza laid down the gloves for a year.

Olympic Class of 1984, Update: Gold medalist Mark Breland will attempt to become the second Olympian to gain a world title when he fights Harold Volbrecht, next Friday in Atlantic City, for the WBA welterweight championship that was stripped from Lloyd Honeyghan. Volbrecht is a white South African and Honeyghan, who had held the undisputed welterweight championship, refused to fight him because of South Africa’s apartheid government. Olympic featherweight champion Meldrick Taylor will fight Roque Montoya on the undercard. Breland, whose fight will be televised by Showtime, is also committed to three ABC-TV fights this year. . . . The first Olympian to win a world title, WBA cruiserweight champion Evander Holyfield, is scheduled to fight Olympic heavyweight champion Henry Tillman, Feb. 14, in Reno. . . . Local hero Paul Gonzales, who is having difficulty booking TV time, is keeping in shape on a couple of coming undercards. He’s fighting Thursday on the Olympic undercard and again next Friday in Sacramento. . . . Super-heavyweight gold medal winner Tyrell Biggs may be on the undercard of the March 7 Mike Tyson-James (Bonecrusher) Smith title unification bout. . . . Meanwhile, Robert Shannon, the only member of the team who did not win a medal, is busy in Seattle making motivational speeches and cutting hair. Named “Honorary Hair Stylist” in 1985, Shannon continues to cut hair 12 to 16 hours a week. The junior featherweight, once defeated, hasn’t fought since December.

Cobb, Update: Former heavyweight contender Randall (Tex) Cobb has been seen on both the little screen, “Miami Vice,” and the big screen, “Critical Condition,” recently. Like boxing, which he long dismissed as a kind of personal therapy, acting isn’t much work to him. He once said: “Anybody ever stayed with a woman four months can act. I say four months because I’m limiting this to personal experience.” Besides the money, Cobb likes the actor’s perk of wardrobe access. “I have the cutest Little Bo Peep outfit.”

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Locals, Update: A very crowded week. Two shows Thursday and two more Friday, besides the title fight Tuesday at the Forum. On Thursday, California welterweight champion Felipe Canela will fight Russell Mitchell in the main event at Raincross Square in Riverside. Same night at the Olympic Auditorium, top-ranked Marcos Villassana will fight Ramon Rico. Also on the card, Olympic champion Gonzales vs. Suzuki Diaz, and Bernardo Mercardo vs. Mike Gant. On Friday, former Mexican sensation Azabache Martinez will fight Jimmy Jackson in a junior lightweight bout at the Sports Arena, and Reseda’s Country Club will be lit up by unbeaten middleweights Michael Nunn and Willie Harris. On that card, former top amateur Alex Garcia will make his pro debut and Tracy Patterson, the adopted son of former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, himself adopted, will be brought in for a bout as well. . . . Villassana, incidentally, may get a rematch with WBC super-featherweight champion Azumah Nelson on the undercard of the Tyson-Smith fight. He’s co-promoter Don King’s first choice, anyway.

Don Fraser, and he won’t mind us saying this, has never met a gimmick he didn’t like. Listen to what he’s got in mind for the undercard of his Joey Olivera-Larry Villarreal state championship fight at the Spruce Goose, Feb. 9. How about a heavyweight fight between 7-foot basketball player Mike White and former USFL player Levi Billups. White, of course, is the fighter who was dispatched to Brazil for a bout, lost, and stayed on to play on the Brazilian basketball team. . . . Fraser reports that one-time bantamweight champion Albert Davila, recently rebuffed in an attempt to win back the crown, plans to continue his career with a fight at the Irvine Marriott sometime soon.

Heavyweight, Update: Three dates in June have been requested for the final bout in the title unification series, matching the Tyson-Smith winner with IBF champion Michael Spinks. They are June 12, 13, and 14. That bout is in some jeopardy, however, because of Spinks’ efforts to fight perennial contender Gerry Cooney outside the series. . . . Former WBC champion Pinklon Thomas, who is now training in Los Angeles, remains mystified about his status. He is ranked No. 1 by the WBC but finds that the organization’s rule about mandatory defenses is suddenly very casual. The defense, which would have matched him with Tyson by March 22, was waived in the interests of the tournament.

Longtime local lightweight Cubanito Perez, who now fights out of Las Vegas, has been signed to challenge Greg Haugen for the IBF title. Perez has lost only to Jimmy Paul and Hector Camacho in his career.

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