ABC has canceled its national telecast of Sugar Ray Leonard's "homecoming" flight against Hector Diaz today from D.C. Armory.
The network charges that its investigation of Diaz' record has "discovered major discrepancies."
"Diaz' record, as ascertained by ABC sports, apparently does not include a win in over four years," the network announced.
ABC further maintained that it could find no evidence that Diaz had fought in the last 19 months.
Diaz and his manager, Woodrow Wilson Larroseaux, claim a five-fight winning streak in that 19-month period.
However, ABC says that both fighter and manager have admitted that one of the fights, in Puerto Rico, never occurred.
The president of the Dominican Republic's pro boxing commission informed ABC that Diaz had not fought in his native land since 1975. Diaz claims to have fought there four times since 1976. Larroseaux says he saw one of the fights.
"This is so unfair," fumed Leonard's lawyer, Mike Trainer.
"The fight will go on as scheduled (5:52 p.m.) and it won't cost Sugar Ray a cent," said Trainer.
"But the taste this leaves in everyone's mouth is just awful. It's infuriating."
"What's the big difference between 17-6-3 and 13-5-3, which is the record that ring magazine shows for Diaz?" ABC sports claims that it can verify welterweight's record at only 10-6-4.
In addition, the network says that the Illinois Boxing Commission state that the "Diaz Sept. 27, 1975, fight against Jose Sales was not a victory as Larroseaux claims, but a draw."
Leonard's handlers continue to insist that Diaz is a suitable opponent, even after learning the results of the ABC investigation.
"This Diaz is a good, tough, standup fighter, according to everyone from (Leonard's manager) Angelo Dundee to Ring magazine to matchmakers all over the East Coast," maintained Trainer.
"ABC is just paranoid after the way they got burned over the U.S. Boxing Championships," Trainer added.
ABC officials made a national apology last month before a house subcommittee hearing over the way the network was duped by several fraudulent boxing records in the aborted U.S. championships.
Local matchmaker Eddie Hrica accepted much of the blame for the discrepancies in Diaz' record.
"It falls back down to me," he said despondently. "This hurts my whole career, I know it.
"Diaz went to the Dominican Republic with personal problems about 18 months ago after he lost a fight in London. When Larroseaux told me Diaz had had five fights since then, I believed it. And I still do.
"These guys fight back in the hills in bullrings and cock-fighting arenas. Sometimes the records of those fights never get back to the United States at all."
Leonard's camp has never promoted Diaz as anything more than a durable, reasonably seasoned 23-year-olds who could give ex-Olympic champion Leonard a decent tussle. It is the Palmer Park native's first bout at the welterweight level.
"Sugar Ray hasn't been told anything about this, not the investigation or anything," Trainer said last night after ABC announced its decision to pull the plug.
"We don't want him distracted from the fight. But I guess he'll have to know pretty soon."
D.C. Armory manager Willis Johnson called the ABC decision "a promoter's nightmare."
Both Trainer and Johnson were annoyed that ABC had not notified them of its investigation until Thursday. "ABC says that its been investigating for a week," said Trainer, "but even that's the 24th hour. Then they wait until the last second to make a decision."
ABC, which had agreed to purchase 350 ringside seats at $20 each, pulled out of that deal, too.
"ABC would have been satisfied and gone ahead with the telecast if we could have proved that Diaz fought even as recently as this June," Trainer said.
But manager Larroseaux' word was only corroboration and that was not good enough for ABC.
"They have got it all wrong," said Larroseaux, denying most of ABC's contentions. "They don't want to go by Ring. They say it is no longer an accurate source of information.
"They (ABC) don't believe anything I tell them. I told them the Bayamon (Puerto Rico) fight was not correct, so maybe because of that they think everything else I tell them is a lie.
"I have been Hector's manager off and on for several years. But sometimes he takes a fight back in the country against my permission, just for the money. I believe that is what these last four fights have been. He tells me so and I believe him. But who can show proof of such fights?
"ABC . . . they believe all his losses in the Dominican Republic (two) but none of his victories. Maybe I should lie up some more losses," said the angered Larroseaux.
On Thursday Leonard described how people have tried to take advantage of him since he turned pro.
An old friend contacted Leonard and asked him to give his name and endorsement to fund-raising charity for sickle-cell anemia. It turned out to be a fraud and Leonard found himself on Washington TV last month disavowing his connection with the shady operation.
"I couldn't believe anybody would do something so low when a fatal disease was involved," said Leonard. "It looks like I have to be as careful outside the ring as inside."
"Sugar Ray is still naive," said Trainer. "Because he knew the guy who sucked him in, he didn't think he needed to clear it with his advisors."
Now Trainer includes himself among those who are naive when it comes to the ways to boxing.
"This won't happen again," vowed Trainer. "I just can't believe the boxing world. Nothing else exists that could be this totally confused and still survive."
Trainer said he had depended on Hrica to check out Leonard's opponent. "But that obviously wasn't enough. One fighter's camp shouldn't be responsible for verifying every fight on the opponent's record. Good Lord, that's not our job. It's the matchmaker's job. But if we have to do it to be safe, maybe we will."