A New Approach to the Fight Game : After 15 Year in the Ring, Duarte Takes a Seat in the Corner

Times Staff Writer

Frankie Duarte is nervous about his next fight Tuesday night at the Country Club in Reseda. Really nervous.

It is not that he doubts his ability or experience in the ring. After all, the North Hollywood bantamweight has been fighting professionally for 15 years, compiling a 42-7-1 record over that period.

The twist is, Duarte won't be in the ring. He'll be in the corner, serving as a manager-trainer for the first time. His fighter is lightweight Reuben Becerada of Venice, who will be making his professional debut against Paul Martinez (0-1) of Los Angeles in a four-round fight.

"This is what I want to do eventually," Duarte said of his new role. "My trainer, Joe Goossen, is really busy with all the fighters he has, so this is my chance to show what I can do."

Becerada had seven amateur fights, winning six, before meeting Duarte recently when the two were working as extras in a television drama. Becerada, 22, asked Duarte for some advice and wound up with a world-class fighter in his corner.

"I've been working with him for about a month and I like his ability," Duarte said. "He's real fast, a long-range puncher with fast hands and a natural instinct to box."

Will Becerada in any way emulate the ring style of his new mentor, Duarte?

"He'd better not," Duarte said, laughing.

Despite all of Duarte's success and longevity in the ring, his is not a style worth emulating. No one ever questioned Duarte's toughness or his ability to take a punch. That's the problem. He'd take two or three punches to give one. And Duarte has the scar tissue to prove it. He has given enough blood over the years to keep the Red Cross in business.

Duarte's theory was always victory at any price, but at 33, he is starting to think perhaps the price might have been too steep.

"I've been wondering," he said, "if 18 years from now, am I going to start slurring my speech? A fighter with my style gets hit a lot, and I'm starting to think about taking too many punches.

"When I show Reuben my fight films, I tell him, 'If you want to not get hit, do the opposite of what I do. You'll have a better chance.' I would like to change, but at 33, it's not that easy. It's just my stubbornness. If I get hit, I want to fight."

He still does. Duarte, who has not fought since he beat Albert Davila on a controversial TKO at the Forum last June, still is hoping to get one more title shot, perhaps back at the Forum in April.

"I'd have maybe two more fights and that's it," Duarte said. "I would like to win the world title and defend it once."

Tuesday's originally scheduled main event, between welterweights Young Dick Tiger and Sam Ray Taylor, had to be scrubbed when Tiger reported he has the flu. Instead, middleweights Willie Wilson (13-2-1, nine knockouts) of San Diego and Roberto Rosiles (10-3-1, nine knockouts) of Blythe will fight in the 10-round main event.

Also on the card, in addition to the Becerada-Martinez bout, will be two four-round featherweight matches: Pulga Franco (1-1, one knockout) of Los Angeles against Russ Hutchingson of San Diego, who will be making his pro debut; and Tony Olivas (2-1, two knockouts) of Pasadena facing Juan Rodriguez (8-3-1, five knockouts) of Los Angeles.

First bell is at 8 p.m.

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