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Boom Boom and Camacho Go Back to the Past : Two Fighters Who Were in Their Prime Five Years Ago Meet Tonight at Reno

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

This is a nostalgic time. The 50s, the 60s, the 70s, they’re all in. How else to explain “The Brady Bunch Reunion,” “The Wonder Years” or tonight’s fight between former world champions Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini and Hector (Macho) Camacho.

It’s probably no fair to dump on this match, a once attractive fight that is only five years delayed.

There is on the horizon similar plunderings of history, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns for example, a rematch that made sense about seven years ago.

For that matter, Marvelous Marvin Hagler is said to be in the gym. And Roberto Duran, his hands of stone considerably softened 10 years after his greatest glory, is back in the picture, ready to entangle in each of the aforementioned in boxing’s version of a senior’s tour.

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Then, too (and this is beyond comment), there is George Foreman, lumbering through a parade of hand-picked heavyweights, more than a decade after his prime.

The fight scene these days is like one of those ads on late-night television, a recycling of greatest hits. That may say a lot about the fight scene, if all that enlivens it is an old-timer’s game.

Tonight’s fight, its live gate sold out and much of its pay-per-view money in hand, may say the most.

Mancini was a popular and durable lightweight until Livingstone Bramble lifted the title here in Lawlor Events Center nearly five years ago.

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Mancini fought Bramble again in 1985, his lone fight of the year, lost and quit to pursue acting. Mancini was never considered sharp. He was a brawling, gutsy competitor, relying less on athletic edge than his swarming style. That was good for a 29-3 record, lots of notoriety and money.

His life style out of the ring--a little flashy as success came but nevertheless everybody’s idea of the perfect son--certainly enhanced his appeal. He was a clean liver in a sport that was increasingly riddled with drugs and worse.

So this match was once perfect. Camacho, a lively sprite who outgrew what could charitably be described as juvenile delinquency in New York’s Spanish Harlem, has never had it in his mind to do a milk commercial.

Outspoken and outrageous, his colorful suit of lights probably raises middle America’s blood pressure a good 10 points, he is everything Mancini is not.

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Mancini would have you believe that this match represents a chance to achieve justice, to squash this former con (3 1/2 months for grand theft auto) for the good of the young innocent children. Camacho relishes the angle as it is providing him with a reported $1.5 million payday.

But the angle is about all there is. Promoters have secured the sanctions of something called the World Boxing Organization but that is thin premise. All that’s here is a grudge match.

And it’s a grudge match that is years too late to amount to anything more than light entertainment--a reprise of Maxwell Smart. These things may sell, but they are not likely to satisfy.

Though still undefeated, Camacho, 34-0, has let his glory slip away, too.

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In his prime, in the early 80s, his athletic skills were supreme. Never the brawler that his nickname suggested, he was a surprising athlete in the ring. With a flamboyance that not even his sequined robes could hide, he won the super featherweight title in 1983, moved up to lightweight in 1985.

But he only defended it twice and then disappeared. He has had just three fights since his last defense, once in 1987, twice last year.

Camacho has had a number of trainers and, reports were, a far larger number of meals.

The pre-fight suspense was supposed to be the weigh-in; neither seemed a lock to make 140 pounds. But only the night owls would find resolution to that. After much going back and forth, the parties agreed to tip the Toledos at 2:30 this morning.

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It’s the time of day, when you think about it, that appeals for recycled hits are most intense.


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