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BOXING / TIM KAWAKAMI : Chavez-De La Hoya Duel Very Likely

Julio Cesar Chavez, running low on energy but still revered in the Latino fight community, wants to retire soon but also wants to make as much money as he can while the career lasts.

Oscar De La Hoya, gaining momentum and power as he heads toward his 23rd birthday, wants to beat all the big names set before him and also make as much money as he can as fast as he can.

It’s the Latino dream match--Mexican hero vs. Mexican-American heartthrob, body-punching warrior vs. flashdance firepower--but it had always been considered an impossible fight to make, complicated by edgy personalities, feuding promoters and scheduling problems.

But boxing underwent a titanic shift last Saturday night, and the effects of that $80-million, Mike Tyson-generated explosion are only beginning to show.

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Since the Pernell Whitaker and Frankie Randall disasters, promoter Don King hasn’t wanted to risk Chavez, who fights David Kamau Sept. 16 at the Mirage in Las Vegas, against anybody too dangerous because Chavez was his No. 1 earner.

But with Tyson back in the ring, and proving his drawing power is greater now than before his four-year layoff, and with Chavez chafing, King can afford to turn him loose for the ultimate, perhaps career-ending showdown.

And that’s not a rematch with Whitaker (been there, done that), or a second rematch with Randall (ditto), or, maybe even the announced bout against World Boxing Council 135-pound champion Miguel Angel Gonzalez (too similar to Chavez).

The last Chavez hurrah should be against De La Hoya. Win, and Chavez’s immortality is sealed. Lose, and he retires at least $8 million richer.

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According to Bob Arum, De La Hoya’s promoter and, until recently, King’s archenemy, emissaries from King’s company have begun tentative talks, aiming for the Cinco de Mayo weekend next year.

“Chavez has given an ultimatum to King that he wants to fight De La Hoya,” Arum said. “And De La Hoya wants to fight Chavez.

“The way I see it, if De La Hoya gets past these next two fights, we go right to Chavez. I’m prepared to go with 50-50.”

For the De La Hoya camp, the only question, assuming the negotiations are successful, is whether De La Hoya would be comfortable fighting at 140 by then. De La Hoya fights Genaro Hernandez, a 130-pound champion moving up to challenge at De La Hoya’s 135-pound limit, Sept. 9 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

After that, De La Hoya is scheduled to fight Dec. 16 at Madison Square Garden in New York against Tracy Harris Patterson, a 122-pounder who recently moved up and won a 130-pound title.

Eventually, everybody associated with De La Hoya knows he will be moving to Chavez’s junior-welterweight division (140 limit), and, quickly after that, to welterweight (147). But will he want to make that jump by May, and directly to Chavez?

“Oscar knows the money he can make at welterweight,” said Mike Hernandez, De La Hoya’s mentor. “So, if he’s ready and he feels he can beat Chavez, he’s going to go. But if he’s not ready, he’s not going to do it, not with the money he can make at welterweight, even without Chavez.”

Hernandez said he would be more comfortable if the fight were next September, giving De La Hoya more time to grow and mature. But Hernandez said he knew that was not Chavez’s timetable.

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“I think Oscar is ready, I really do,” Hernandez said. “I was way ahead of Bob Arum on this. I told Oscar right after the [Rafael] Ruelas fight, ‘Your next goal is Chavez. The rest is easy, the toughest is when you become a 140-pounder.’

“I talked to him a couple days ago about Chavez, he said, ‘I don’t see any problem with that.’ ”

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For the first time in his memory, Gabriel Ruelas took a couple of months off from boxing, relaxed and didn’t rush back into the gym and the ring.

Emotionally rattled by the death of Jimmy Garcia, who fell into a coma after he was knocked out by Ruelas last May, Ruelas said he just wanted some time off.

“I think because of what happened, I needed a break,” Ruelas said. “But I’m over that now.

“About two weeks ago, it was like, man . . . I would watch fights, on USA and ESPN, all those, and just miss it. I mean, I miss being in there, being in the ring and fighting and that feeling before the fight, you know?”

Ruelas said he isn’t worried about having flashbacks to what happened against Garcia.

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“I’m past that,” he said. “It’s behind me.”

He went back into the gym recently and has been shadow boxing and hitting the bags.

His brother, Rafael, is scheduled to fight in the Bahamas on Oct. 7 against George Scott. Gabriel said that after going to Las Vegas to meet with his manager, Dan Goossen, and with Arum, his promoter, to figure out when he can fight again, he will join Rafael at their Big Bear camp when it opens in a few weeks.

Gabriel, the WBC junior-lightweight champion, is supposed to fight a mandatory defense as his next bout, and the No. 1 contender is former champion Azumah Nelson, who defeated Ruelas in 1993 but hasn’t fought since he lost to Jesse James Leija in May 1994.

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Boxing Notes

In the wake of Vinny Vecchione’s controversial decision to jump into the ring to end the Mike Tyson-Peter McNeeley bout after 89 seconds, Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, said the commission has no plans to consider a rule that would bar corner men from entering the ring. “In the thousands of rounds I have personally seen, I have never had a manager or trainer stop a fight in the first round,” Ratner said. “All the other times that someone has stopped it later on in the fight, I’ve had no problem with it at all.”

Ratner said the commission will decide Monday whether to continue its investigation into Vecchione’s decision. The commission, pending that investigation, is withholding Vecchione’s share of McNeeley’s purse--about $180,000. . . .

Nov. 4 looks as if it will, after all, be the heavyweight date of all time. Although both sides have talked about a settlement, apparently both HBO-TVKO, with its Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield bout, and Showtime-SET, with its Tyson-Buster Mathis Jr. fight, are set to go with their bouts on the same date, at the same time, in the same city--Las Vegas. This week, Time-Warner sports chief Seth Abraham denied speculation that he might move Bowe-Holyfield off pay-per-view and onto HBO to combat the Tyson fight, which apparently will stay on pay-per-view, but at a price reduced from the $45 average of the McNeeley bout.


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