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Odds Are That Duran Is Next for Leonard

The Baltimore Sun

Promoter Bob Arum has planned a Wednesday press conference at Roseland in New York to announce Sugar Ray Leonard’s opponent at Caesars Palace, Nov. 2, in Las Vegas, Nev., and the betting is that Roberto Duran, not Thomas Hearns, will emerger from behind the curtain.

“We will definitely have a decision by this weekend,” Arum said Thursday from his Las Vegas office. “Mike Trainer (Leonard’s attorney-manager) has listened to offers from representatives of Duran and Hearns, and now he and Ray simply have to make the best business decision.”

For Leonard, who will serve Friday as HBO’s ringside commentator at the Mike Tyson-Carl Williams heavyweight championship bout, that would seem to be a third match with Duran, who re-established himself as a prime-time boxing attraction last fall by upsetting Iran Barkley to claim the middleweight crown.

Hearns’ advisors are seeking parity with Leonard for a third match after he battled Sugar Ray to a draw last month. But Duran, 38, seems willing to take a lesser purse for a chance to erase the memory of his infamous “No mas” surrender to Leonard in New Orleans’ Superdome in November 1980.

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“They offered Duran’s advisor, Mike Acri, $7.5 million,” a boxing source said. “He’s trying to up the ante to $10 million, but Acri knows that there’s no other fight where Duran can make this kind of money.”

Leonard said he wants to fight both Hearns and Duran again, but will let Trainer decide who should be first.

Thursday, Leonard told ESPN, “I have motivation for both of them. Hearns, because of my disappointing performance against him in our last fight, and Duran, because he denied me the full acceptance of defeating him.”

Sources, however, say Duran, because of his age, is more vulnerable than Hearns, 30, who would be willing to wait six months for another shot at Leonard and, at least another $10 million purse.

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Trainer was not available for comment, but had indicated in the past that he did not believe Hearns deserved an equal share of the revenue since Leonard was still the main attraction.

“Whatever Ray and Mike decide, I’m prepared to go either way,” said Arum. “It’s just a question of which one you take to maximize your revenue. But Duran’s age was certainly a factor in the decision-process.”

Duran has also been listed as a future opponent for International Boxing Federation middleweight champion Michael Nunn, who defends his title against Barkley on Aug. 14, but Duran would likely prefer to wait for Leonard.

Missing Clout: Due to a lack of demand, seating capacity at the Atlantic City Convention Center for the Tyson-Williams bout was reduced from 21,000 to 11,000, with $200 and $300 tickets reportedly still available.

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“There’s some residual effect from the Tyson-Michael Spinks fight,” said Mark Etess, a vice-president of Trump Plaza, the co-promoters. “There was so much anticipation for that match, and the fact that Spinks lasted only 91 seconds blew everyone away.”

In the wings: Cruiserweight king Evander Holyfield, waiting for his shot at Tyson, will hold a news conference here Friday. Bill Cayton, Tyson’s estranged manager, has recommended the fight to Don King, who serves as the champion’s sole promoter. “Tyson-Holyfield is worth $25 million,” said Cayton, “and that’s worth more than four $4 minlion fights they’re considering.”

Page turning: Former heavyweight champion Greg Page, once branded “the next Muhammad Ali,” served as a Tyson sparring partner this past month. Matched against unbeaten Charles Woolard on the preliminary card, Page blames himself for losing his title and zest for fighting. “I let a lot of things bother me in the past. I was always blaming Don King, but now I’m back in control of my life.”

No translation needed: King’got an interpreter for Argentina’s Jose Ribalta, who needs only to beat journeyman Jeff Sims in the 10-round semifinal Friday night to earn a rematch with Tyson. But Ribalta stood before the microphone and spoke fluent English for a minute. Perhaps the interpreter was there to translate into Spanish?

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