Pay per view gives boxers spot for best shots

June 22, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Roberto Duran says he's hated a few of his opponents during his professional career, which started more than 27 years ago when he was three months shy of his 16th birthday: Sugar Ray Leonard, ugh; Davey Moore, boo; Esteban DeJesus, daggers; Iran Barkley, a bum.

But he regards these former champions (and guys he beat, by the way) as bosom buddies today when he thinks about his Saturday night opponent on pay per view, Vinny Pazienza. "He's a big mouth," says Duran. "He's a clown, a joke. He shoots his mouth off and he's no good."

Initially, you think, it's just the latest chapter in boxing's age-old habit of hyping fights by having the opponents swear that life can't possibly go on for them unless they smash the other guy to smithereens.

On cue, Pazienza was soon on the horn and giving it right back. "If he is hurt early," said the Pazmanian Devil, "I'm not going to take him out. I want to punish him. I'm going to lay a lot of pain on this guy because of all the bad things he's said about me."

Ho-hum.

Earlier, on an afternoon of teleconferences publicizing upcoming TV bouts, Arthur Williams and Orlin Norris traded shots about their rematch July 2, promoter Don King assuring, "This is what makes for great fights, pure-bred animosity. I guarantee you the fight in the ring will be 10 times as good as this little disagreement on the telephone."

Stuck in the middle of wall-to-wall "pure-bred animosity," was CBS pushing its boxing-horse racing twin bill from Atlantic City Sunday afternoon, unbeaten magpie Kevin Kelly rattling on about cabbages and kings and, every so often, his featherweight battle with Georgie Navarro.

Network analyst Gil Clancy tried to get something going by telling Kelly that famed trainer Angelo Dundee, who handles Navarro, had told him "Navarro won't only give you a great fight, he'd guarantee a victory for his guy."

Kelly laughed. "That means nothing to me," he said. "While I respect Angelo Dundee as a man, I do not respect him that much as a trainer. Angelo's fighters don't win." Thing is, you takes your pure-bred animosity where you can find it.

When you think about it, what fighters say to each other and about each other has become a pre-fight staple because what they say about the competition itself is pretty bland.

For instance, the Williams-Norris bout in March was close, one judge going for Williams, another for Norris and the third giving Norris the majority decision from here to the Canadian border, 118-110. Someone scouted up the cards and while two judges gave Williams a round 10-8 as he spent three minutes pummeling Norris around the ring, the official in question saw it 10-9 for the gent getting wiped out.

"You got a gift last time, but not this time," Williams said directly to his opponent. "I've made changes. I'm going to put more heat on you. I'm going to be more aggressive." And, oh yes, the usual, "I'm in the best shape of my life."

Norris countered: "You didn't fight me, the real Orlin Norris, last time. I was looking for an early knockout. I underestimated you a little. I won't make those mistakes this time."

It was Kelly again: "Friends have been asking me why I'm taking on a tough guy [Navarro] like this. Well, I need it. I was off five months before my last fight, which is unusual for me, and it showed. This guy's a tough veteran. He's a survivor who knows how to fight. Whatever he does, I'll do the opposite. It'll be enough."

Pazienza: "They're totally underestimating me. They don't think I can punch or box. Duran genuinely doesn't like me because I've been busting his chops, the idea being that I want him coming into the ring with smoke coming out of his nose and looking to get me out of there quick. Me, I'll be all wired up as usual. I'll look like Marty Feldman.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's a low-class, no-class guy and after some of the things he said, I didn't even care about the money. I just wanted to fight this guy. And if he thinks he's going to knock me out, he's crazy. I don't get knocked out. I've never really been hurt or knocked down."

Duran: "I've never been more excited for a fight, even the first one against Leonard [1980]. It will be my fifth title on five different nights, not picking up two titles as Leonard and [Tommy] Hearns did in one fight. It's my last year and I want to accomplish something."

On and on the fighters rambled as, in the background, promoter King talked about shows he has planned (mostly PPV, of course) every weekend from now until Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, one of the teleconferences was postponed, Rock Newman talking about what's with his man Riddick Bowe. Consequently, the ears only had to be treated for second-degree burns.

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