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Boxing / Earl Gustkey : Prospects for Another Blockbuster Bleak

Looking ahead at what’s left of the 1980s--14 months--and maybe at 1990, you search for another boxing blockbuster, a Leonard-Hagler, or a Tyson-Spinks.

And there’s nothing there. At least nothing that’s in focus.

Until recent months, it was thought by many that boxing’s next pay-per-view biggie would be Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield. Then Holyfield began fighting heavyweights, and everyone has pretty much given up on Holyfield-Tyson.

In his last fight, against James Tillis, Holyfield showed proficiency at throwing every punch in the boxing textbook . . . and a glaring inability to hurt a heavyweight.

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The theory is, the man who beats Mike Tyson is going to have to hurt him. So far, Holyfield doesn’t look like the guy.

So you look at other weight classes, and you see a possible biggie shaping up at super-welterweight, or junior-middleweight.

Julio Cesar Chavez fights Jose Luis Ramirez in a lightweight unification title bout at the Las Vegas Hilton tonight. Chavez has said he wants to beat Ramirez, defend the lightweight crown once more, then move up to junior-welterweight or welterweight.

OK, let’s move on to plot point No. 1:

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On Jan. 28 or Feb. 4, at Caesars Palace, Marlon Starling will meet England’s Lloyd Honeyghan, and Mark Breland will fight Colombia’s Tomas Molinares.

A couple of months later, those two winners will meet.

A couple of months after that, the ultimate winner will fight Chavez.

And if Chavez wins, folks, that means another $50 pay-per-view fight could be coming down, because now we have arrived at plot point No. 2:

Sugar Ray Leonard.

Boxing people are already talking about it, even though Chavez must not only move up in weight class, but must beat at least one world-class welterweight and look good before he gets Leonard.

Mort Sharnik, an adviser for Starling and a former CBS boxing consultant, talked about Leonard-Chavez the other day.

“If Chavez moves up in weight and looks good at welterweight, then Chavez-Leonard looks like a fight everyone would want to see,” he said.

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“If he looks good as a welterweight, then at that point he’s established himself as one of boxing’s great champions. It could be another Leonard-Hagler. But some questions need to be answered--like, will Ray want it, at 33 or 34? (Leonard will be 33 in May.)

“And what about weight? Would Ray be willing to go down to 147 again? Or even 150 or 152?”

Chavez said in an interview Wednesday that he wants Leonard in his future.

“I must fight one fight at a time, but yes, if I beat Ramirez, I have great fights in my future. I would like to fight (Leonard) one day, it would mean many dollars.”

Mike Trainer, Leonard’s lawyer, sees a Leonard-Chavez as a biggie, but also an iffy. He questions whether it will ever come off.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think Chavez matches up physically with Ray,” he said. “I don’t know that the public would buy it. And you’re talking about something a year or more down the road and I don’t even know if Ray will want to be fighting then. I don’t much like the idea of him fighting now.”

Leonard, of course, will fight Donny Lalonde at Caesars Palace Nov. 7.

So in the meantime, it’s on the back burner, a fight between possibly boxing’s best all-around performer, in his prime, against the conqueror of Hearns, Duran and Hagler, in probably his farewell appearance in the ring.

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Speaking of Leonard-Lalonde, which few seem inclined to do, the California Athletic Commission is drawing fire from all directions for the way it halted Leonard’s outdoor workout at Century City Tuesday.

Leonard was to have sparred before what turned out to be a crowd of about 2,000, and hype his bout with Lalonde. His hands were taped and the gloves were laced on before his sparring session.

At that point, Athletic Commission officers Joe Borelli and Frank Adair walked up to the ring apron, flashed their badges and informed everyone that there would be no sparring session because Leonard was not licensed to box or spar in California.

At issue was Leonard’s years-old detached retina injury, which ophthalmologists in several states have repeatedly pronounced healed and healthy.

But California, unlike Nevada, has a blanket approach to licensing boxers who have had retina injuries. Nevada reviews boxers with past eye injuries case by case. Some even perceived the action Tuesday as an attempt by California to embarrass the Nevada Athletic Commission, which has, of course, sanctioned not only Leonard-Lalonde, but Leonard-Hagler.

Also in question is how long the two inspectors, Borelli and Adair, waited before making their bust.

Numerous witnesses said they were present well before Leonard was gloved, but Ken Gray, commission executive director, said there was no intent to embarrass anyone.

“We have no problem with Leonard working out, but to spar, he must have a license and he doesn’t have a license,” Gray said. “Obviously, Adair and Borelli waited to see if there was an intent to spar.”

So how come the commission didn’t inform Leonard or Caesars Palace weeks ago that it wouldn’t permit Leonard to spar? The session had been advertised and reported in newspapers.

“We only learned about it Monday night, at the Forum boxing show,” Gray said.

Gray indicated that there’s a chance the controversy will result in a reciprocal agreement with Nevada on the subject of licensing of boxers who have had eye injuries.

“We’re going to talk about modernizing our approach to eye injuries, about going to a case-by-case review,” he said.


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