Linde's latest pursuit leads to title bouts tonight

January 31, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

Barry Linde, born in Baltimore 60 years ago, has been successful in almost everything he has attempted -- as an amateur boxer, scholar, home builder or art collector -- while accumulating enough money to retire in luxury.

In the 1960s, he became known as "King of the Hill" in Washington after building hundreds of townhouses in the Capitol Hill area. Now Linde is working toward becoming "King of the Hill" as the area's most successful boxing manager.

Starting from scratch in 1993, Linde has put together a stable of five professional boxers with a combined record of 97-4-2 -- welterweights Derrell Coley (25-0-2) and Eduardo Cruz (31-2), super-lightweight Reggie Green (17-1), middleweight Reuben Bell (11-0) and super-middleweight Gerry Payne (13-1).

Green and Coley will be showcased in title fights at the Washington Convention Center tonight on a USA cable television card.

Coley, who has a crowd-pleasing style reminiscent of Sugar Ray Leonard's, will defend his North American Boxing Federation title against Ray Lovato (20-0) of Sacramento, Calif. Green will challenge Jaime "Rocky" Balboa of Mexico for the NABF super-lightweight crown.

Cruz, Linde's latest acquisition from Mexico City, and Bell, a devastating puncher and one of the brightest prospects in the country, will appear on the undercard.

"I've enjoyed just about everything I've done," said Linde, who, for recreation, has boxed, played football at Bullis Prep, played tennis and, most recently, raced powerboats. "But since I became involved with fighters, it's been the best time of my life."

His father, the late Arthur Linde, was a prominent Baltimore surgeon who urged his son to follow in his footsteps.

"Medicine just wasn't my calling," said Linde, who attended Harvard and Wharton business schools. "I worked construction while I was in college, and I discovered there was a lot of money to be made in the home construction business."

But boxing always has been his secret passion, and Linde returned to the gym in his late 50s to remain physically fit. From collecting art, he turned to collecting fighters, looking for those with flair and potential.

"Coley caught my eye right away," he said. "I'm old enough to have seen Ray Robinson in his prime, and Derrell has displayed some of those same boxing skills with his hand and foot speed."

When Linde first saw Coley fight as a pro, the slender boxer was being managed by New York boxing writer Mike Marley. But Marley went to work as a publicist for Don King, and Coley began shopping for a new manager.

"I had nothing against Marley," said Coley, who has beaten former champions Saoul Mamby and Terrence Alli. "I just didn't want to be tied to King. Barry made me an offer, and it's been a great relationship."

Said Linde: "I love being around fighters and watching them progress. I do the managing, and, fortunately, I've been fairly good at it so far."

Linde offers all of his new fighters a sizable signing bonus that takes care of most of their financial needs and training experiences until they become main-event attractions. He has used well-connected boxing figures like Lou Duva to help move his fighters into lucrative matches with the most possible exposure.

Coley, 24, is the closest of Linde's fighters to becoming a world title contender. He is ranked ninth by the World Boxing Council.

In his most recent match, however, Coley was nearly upset by Balboa, who floored him twice but had to settle for a draw.

"That was my fault as much as Derrell's," said Linde. "We had two fights fall through before we got Balboa as an opponent. I didn't know he was that tough. I hadn't done my homework."

Said Coley: "I had fought six times in a six-month span, and it took its toll. But I made Balboa look good by fighting his fight. If I just boxed him, I would have won easy.

"Against Lovato, I'll put on a show that boxing fans will remember for a long time. It will be so good, they'll be ready to match me with one of the current champions -- Pernell Whitaker [WBC], Felix Trinidad [IBF] or Ike Quartey [WBA]. Personally, I want Whitaker. Why not fight the best?"

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