Bob Arum, head of the Top Rank, Inc., boxing promotion firm in New York City, said yesterday that he is going to talk to Sugar Ray Leonard today in Puerto Rico about fighting the winner of the welterweight championship bout there Sunday. Carlos Palomino defends against Wilfredo Benitez.

Arum said that ABC is "anxious" to televise a Leonard title bout. The Palomino-Benitez bout, at 3:15 p.m. on WJLA-TV-7, kicks off the networks' national championship boxing series, featuring professional or amateur fights almost every week.

Excerpts of Leonard's eighth-round TKO of Johnny Grant Thursday night at Capital Centre will be seen Sunday on NBC.

Angelo Dundee, Leonard's manager, confirmed that the former Olympic champion and his entourage will be in San Juan to see Palomino and Benitez fight.

Dundee said he is going to Puerto Rico rather than watch the bout on television in the United States "because watching fighters on TV is no true barometer of what they can do, so I'll drop in on the live fight.

"I've homework to do," he said about Leonard. "If I think he is ready for a title bout, we'll have it in the fall, but we're not looking to jump the gun.

"Maybe we'll fight a big guy -- a middleweight -- in February, or Roberto Duran, the lightweight champ. I'm one of the biggest respecters of Duran, but I don't think he is as good as he once was. When he beat Monroe Brooks he was fighting a patty cake."

Palomino, recognized as welter-weight titleholder by the World Boxing Council, has won 31 of 35 bouts, losing once and drawing three times. Challenger Benitez, ranked No. 6 contender by the World Boxing Association for the title held by Jose (Pipino) Cuevas, has won 33 of 34 bouts, with only a draw marring his record.

Cuevas will defend his WBA title against Scott Clark in California later this month.

Besides Dundee, Leonard will be joined in Puerto Rico by his attorney, Michael G. Trainer, and Janks Morton, his adviser trainer.

"We are going to talk to the Benitez management on Saturday and Palomino's on Sunday," said Trainer.

"We want to see if the champions (Palomino or Benitez after Sunday's bout or Cuevas or Clark after their bout) will be free agents somewhere along the line and tell them what to keep open if they want to fight Ray for the title in the fall.

"If that isn't feasible, we'll make other plans. I don't think it will be a matter of dollars. I don't think we will have to give a lot of options. Ray is the most marketable fighter there is.

"Nobody would be doing us a favor, fighting Ray. He makes as much as champions do. It's the status of a title itself. There is no hue and cry to book the champions against anyone else. It would be a payday for them. Cuevas-Clark isn't even on TV.

"We don't need a championship bout financially. Ray can keep fighting boxers in the top 10 and make big money. He's the draw."