BOXING / CHRIS DUFRESNE : Sport's Credibility Takes It on the Chin

It might all have been a bad dream, but I could have sworn less than two weeks ago that a local boxing promoter named Peter Broudy stood before flashbulbs and note pads at The Pond of Anaheim and proclaimed it to be boxing's last best hope for survival in Southern California.

In unveiling a proposed Feb. 4 card there, Broudy pleaded his case. Some of us actually sloshed through the rain to hear this stump speech. Broudy said fans didn't attend boxing shows in Los Angeles anymore because there was a "perception" that venues such as the Forum and Grand Olympic Auditorium were not safe.

Now, The Pond, that was another story. Freeway close. Squeaky clean. Family oriented. Orange County. Barbra Streisand sang there. It was to die for.

Then, in the dream, in a stunning turnaround, Broudy pulls out of the Pond and opts to take over boxing at the Olympic, which failed under the watch of Top Rank Inc., one of the sport's top promotional guns.

In the span of a week, the Olympic goes from a place people feared to Broudy's brand-new bouncing baby.

Wow. That was some security turnaround.

Turns out it was no dream, merely typical boxing bombast.

Forget those witnesses and tape recorders, Broudy now contends he never said those nasty things about the Olympic being a safety concern.

He loooooves the Olympic.

So what happened with The Pond? Broudy claims everything was fine until a week ago Friday.

Broudy: "I had a deal with The Pond, but the Forum had gone to them and wanted to do a big (pay-per-view) show for March 31. I wanted 12 dates. I don't want to be the guy breaking ground for Forum Boxing."

Forum Boxing denies that its proposed March 31 show at The Pond had any bearing on Broudy's negotiations.

But, in a flash, Broudy was gone, off to pick up the pieces Bob Arum left scattered on Grand Olympic's hallowed grounds.

Monday, in another turnaround, Broudy said he'd be willing to do business at The Pond (he'd still keep the Olympic gig) so long as he could work matters out with the Forum.

Broudy also dispelled rumors he was already bailing out of the Olympic. He's not, only changing his original start date from Feb. 9 to Feb. 16, with a different card.

So who do you believe in all this?

In boxing, a general rule applies:

Nobody.

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Olympic, Part II: Arum knew his dream of restoring the Olympic to its days of glory were shot on opening night, last March, when hometown hero Oscar De La Hoya failed to fill the arena despite much ballyhooed fanfare.

To be sure, Broudy and Arum have diametrically opposed theories as to how best to run boxing shows at the Olympic.

Arum thought he needed television to survive, but television hurt his live gate.

On a non-televised card in March featuring Hector Lopez, Arum said he lost $60,000.

Broudy thinks Arum missed the punch.

"I don't want a TV audience," Broudy said, "I want a crowd."

Broudy proposes to make it at the Olympic without television.

Broudy also contends Arum arranged too many mismatches to assure that Top Rank fighters were victorious for the television cameras.

"You could look at the sheet and you knew who was going to win," Broudy said. Broudy is not alone in feeling that Arum did not cater enough to local Mexican nationals.

Arum, to his credit, makes no excuses for his failed venture.

He came, he tried, he did not conquer, he moved to Las Vegas. Arum: "We never could tap into the Hispanic community the way we had hoped. We devoted so much time and effort with billboards, advertising, we really worked the Spanish market, but maybe the reason was we didn't use Mexican nationals.

"But whatever, I'm frank enough to say we really couldn't make it work."

As for the maverick Broudy, well, who's to say?

He plans to open his Olympic shows on Feb. 9 with the Feb. 4 card originally scheduled for The Pond.

Then again, he could call another news conference.

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HBO scored a knockout with its decision Jan. 7 to feature two lower-division champions. It was a first for the cable network, which in 181 previous title fights, had never headlined a live championship fight at 122 pounds or a doubleheader below the 135-pound weight division.

The first bout, in which Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez upset Brooklyn's Kevin Kelley to take the World Boxing Council featherweight title, might hold up as 1995's fight of the year.

It was that good, thanks to nonstop action and the drama in the corner involving the charismatic Kelley, who knew he was in trouble early.

With Kelley's eyes swollen shut, his corner refused to let the boxer leave his stool for the 11th round.

In the second fight, Wilfredo Vasquez retained his World Boxing Assn. junior-featherweight title with a ho-hum split-decision victory over Orlando Canizales, who had moved up from 118 pounds after holding the bantamweight title for more than six years.

On the night, HBO scored a 10 rating and 16 share, about the numbers it usually does for a non-title heavyweight bout.

"After Saturday night, it would be foolish not to take lower weight classes seriously," HBO vice-president Lou DiBella said. "This shows that the lower weights, when the matchups are there, are an alternative. The fact that our ratings didn't suffer, you can count on us in the future showing the little guys."

You can also count on Gonzalez-Kelley II.

Boxing Notes

There are potential hang-ups in New Orleans regarding George Foreman's first title defense, April 22 against Germany's Axel Schulz at the Superdome. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said a couple of the New Orleans casinos, which have put up certain site guarantees, might not have their gaming machines in place before fight night. "It's screwing things up a little bit," Arum said. "But we think everything's going to be OK." If the matter can't be resolved, the fight might be moved to Las Vegas.

Foreman, by the way, celebrated his 46th birthday last Tuesday.

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