Sugar Ray Leonard has a standing offer to fight new welterweight champion Wilfredo Benitez for the World Boxing Council title, but he will pass it up until late fall or next year, his manager, Angelo Dundee, said yesterday.
Leonard will meet Canadian middleweight titleholder Fernand Marcotte Feb. 11 in Miami Beach.
The bout will be part of a Sunday doubleheader attraction on NBC-TV, following the Notre Dame-UCLA college basketball game. The game will begin at 1 p.m. The fight is expected to go on about 3:10 p.m.
Bob Arum, head of the Top Rank Inc. promotion firm, said from his New York office, "I called Dundee after Benitez won the championship from Carlos Palomino and offered Leonard a shot at Benitez.
"I told Angelo we are prepared at any time to make the match. It would be a big, big money bout -- the richest welterweight title bout ever on primetime evening television, on ABC.
"I said, 'Have Mike Trainer (Leonard's attorney) call me if he wants the bout.' The conversation ended before terms were even discussed. Angelo said he was not interested; not just yet.
"Now, it looks like Benitez will fight David Green of London in March in Monte Carlo or Puerto Rico (Benitez's home).
"Leonard can have Benitez after that, if he wants a title shot," Arum said.
Green is the WBC's No. 2 contender. Leonard is ranked No. 4, Palomino first and Harold Weston third.
Dundee said from Miami Beach, where Leonard will finish his training for Marcotte, "I told Arum we're not interested at this time. We're busy. We've got fights booked through June. By late fall Ray will be experienced against all kinds of fighters, and then he may fight for the title, or early next year. There's no hurry."
Dundee said of the continuing education of Leonard, "We want to try Marcotte because he's a bigger man that what Ray's been fighting, a middleweight."
Marcotte, of Quebec City, has a 31-8-3 record and is ranked as the No. 6 contender for the title held by Rocky Mattioli of Italy in the WBC's special "super welterweight" division.
Marcotte is a strong, stocky type who comes straight at his opponents and depends on a good left hook. When Elisha Obed of the Bahamas was junior middleweight champion, he decisioned Marcotte. Clyde Gray of Toronto knocked out Marcotte for the Canadian welterweight title.
Dundee said Leonard will fight a televised bout on the weekend of March 24 and another in May in Baltimore than probably will be televised. Capital Centre expects to have a Leonard nontitle bout in the summer.