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TRAVELING <i> NORTE</i> : Mexico’s Big Bout Between Chavez and Ramirez Will Be Held in Las Vegas

Times Staff Writer

It’s a fight that both boxers and several million Mexicans wanted in Mexico City.

But fans don’t vote in boxing, of course. In the end, only three votes counted, those cast by the Las Vegas Hilton, HBO and Don King. We’re talking power economics here.

And so on Saturday night, Mexico’s two most prominent boxers, lightweights Julio Cesar Chavez and Jose Luis Ramirez, will meet in Las Vegas.

Chavez, the World Boxing Assn. champion known as J.C. Superstar by the considerable number of sweet scientists who claim he is boxing’s best performer, pound for pound, fears that his countrymen may be taking this one too seriously.

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He’s worried about “bad trouble,” when auto caravans of boxing fans from Mexico arrive in Las Vegas, only to learn that they can’t see the bout they’ve waited years to see.

“Something bad could happen,” he said here Wednesday, through an interpreter. “There are a lot of Mexican people planning to drive to Las Vegas, 3,000 or 4,000 miles, four and five people to a car.

“I’m worried what could happen, when they arrive and find there are no tickets to see the fight.”

The bout will be held indoors, at the 9,000-seat Hilton Center. And there is a high probability of a sellout. At noon Wednesday, according to Hilton spokesman Jim Hunter, just fewer than 80% of the tickets had been sold.

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The house is scaled from $25 to $400.

The Hilton has held major boxing cards outdoors in the past, in a 12,000 seat temporary stadium on the parking lot. This one was moved indoors to avoid having two world-class lightweights boxing in cold October night air.

Light-heavyweights and middleweights, apparently, don’t get as cold. Sugar Ray Leonard and Donny Lalonde are boxing outside at Caesars Palace Nov. 7.

To handle the overflow, the Hilton will show the bout on closed-circuit TV in its 2,000-seat showroom, a spokesman said.

“I wish so much this fight could have been held in Mexico City or Los Angeles, at the Forum,” Chavez said.

“A lot of Mexicans have driven from Mexico to see me when I’ve boxed at the Forum.”

Mexican reporters and officials here for the bout seem frustrated at having to see their champions--Ramirez holds the World Boxing Council title--have their showdown in Las Vegas.

“If this fight were held in Mexico City, it would’ve put 110,000 people in Azteca Stadium,” said Jesus Rocha, a reporter for two Mexico City publications.

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“The fight isn’t in Mexico for one simple reason: No dinero . And it would cost HBO or anyone else a lot of money to televise an event live from Mexico.”

Rocha figures there may be more Mexicans outside Hilton Center than inside Saturday night.

“I’ve heard as many as 15,000 Mexicans are coming to Las Vegas,” he said. “A few of them purchased tickets through Mexican travel agencies, but most of them won’t have tickets. And they aren’t going to be very happy when they find out they’re going to have to watch it on TV.”

Chavez and Ramirez, unless they fight to a draw, will produce the first lightweight champion to hold more than one piece of the championship since Roberto Duran, in 1978. Chavez has a 61-0 record, Ramirez a 101-6 mark.

At one time, both were teen-age prospects in Culiacan, Mexico, working out in the city’s biggest boxing gym, Gymnasio Morelos.

“Yes, they used to spar all the time,” and Chavez always won, said Eddie Mafus, King’s liaison to the Latin boxing community.

At mid-day Wednesday, Chavez was the runaway favorite, 7 1/2 to 1.

This fight was years in the making.

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Chavez, 26, won his first world title, the WBC’s super featherweight championship, in 1984, and defended it nine times before moving up to the WBA’s lightweight title, which he won here last November when he stopped Edwin Rosario in 11 rounds.

In his last appearance, at the Forum Aug. 1, Chavez knocked out Yogi Buchanan.

Ramirez, 29, turned pro when he was 14. When last seen, he was getting beat up in Paris last March by 1984 Olympic gold medalist Pernell Whitaker. Unhappily for Whitaker, however, the judges awarded the bout to Ramirez, who retained his WBC championship.

That decision prompted Whitaker’s trainer, Lou Duva, to confront WBC president Jose Sulaiman at ringside and say: “You are a . . . thief.”

Duva’s theory was that Sulaiman somehow influenced the result in order to preserve a Chavez-Ramirez showdown.

Ramirez and Chavez share a noteworthy common opponent, Rosario. Ramirez dispatched the Puerto Rican more quickly than did Chavez. Ramirez, for the WBC lightweight title, knocked out Rosario in the fourth round in 1984.

Ramirez’s last defeat was a 1985 decision to Hector Camacho, which cost him the WBC lightweight title. He won it back by beating Terrence Alli in 1987. He has 11 straight victories.

The two Mexican fighters engaged in verbal warfare this week. Ramirez, asked about the challenge of taking on the unbeaten Chavez, said: “To me, it is just another fight. Chavez is my 108th fight, that’s all.”

Chavez countered: “He said that? Well, go tell him he’s my 62nd opponent.”

Chavez won’t be the only unbeaten fighter on Saturday’s card. Miguel Lora of Colombia (30-0) will defend his WBC bantamweight title against Tijuana’s Raul Perez (41-1-1) in a preliminary fight.

Lora defended his title at the Forum Aug. 1 against Albert Davila of Pomona, but nearly lost it in the laboratory. He flunked his postfight drug test, which showed a positive result for amphetamines. But when Lora’s second urine test was negative, the California Athletic Commission dismissed the case.

Saturday’s card is the first of three major Las Vegas boxing shows in 13 days. Also scheduled:

--Nov. 4, Hilton: Thomas Hearns vs. James (the Heat) Kinchen, for Hearns’ WBA super-middleweight championship; Michael Nunn vs. Juan Domingo Roldan, for Nunn’s International Boxing Federation middleweight championship, and Matthew Hilton vs. Robert Hines, for Hilton’s IBF junior middleweight championship.

--Nov. 7, Caesars Palace: Leonard vs. Lalonde, for Lalonde’s WBC light-heavyweight title and the vacant WBC super-middleweight championship.


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