A squabble over money may lead to a split between Sugar Ray Leonard and his longtime trainer, Dave Jacobs, who has guided the World Boxing Council welterweight champion since he was a 14-year-old novice.
Jacobs said, "That is so right," of reports he had been dismissed as Leonard's trainer. Leonard's attorney, Mike Trainer, said a letter he sent to Jacobs' attorney, Spencer H. Boyer, did not fire the veteran trainer, but rejected his request for a percentage of Leonard's earnings.
Trainer said he has offered a flat fee of $25,000 per fight to Jacobs, who serves as boxing instructor at the Oakcrest Recreation Center.
"If he (Jacobs) doesn't work with Ray, he quit," Trainer said, "Ray made a very generous offer to Dave Jacobs on a per-fight basis, far in excess of what Dave has made in previous fights . . . many, many times what he earns working full time. . . . We don't want to fire him. Ray would love to have him working with him.
"We've had an arrangement with him (Jacobs) for three years (since Leonard turned pro) and we were led to believe he was quite happy with it, on a per-fight-type basis. Then Ray Leonard becomes champion and he (Jacobs) wants a percentage of what Ray earns.
". . . I don't like anything that indicates that Dave Jacobs has not been treated fairly. He probably gets paid more than any trainer in the country. I'd like to find one who gets paid more."
Jacobs refused to elaborate on his firing, but was quoted in a United Press International story as saying: "I've been making as little as 1 percent of his earnings from all those $250,000 fights. Now that he's making millions, they figure I'm not worth the customary 10 percent a professional trainer gets."
From Las Vegas, where he was to attend Larry Holmes' heavyweight title fight with Lorenzo Zanon on Sunday, Leonard said, "It's really a matter of percentages, but I really haven't been home long enough to talk things over with Jake (Jacobs) and Trainer. We've always worked as a team. I hope we can work things out."
"The door's been left open," Trainer said. "I couldn't fire him if I wanted to. We want him to work with Ray. He's been here a long time. He works with Ray, not with me. . . . The thing that disturbs me is he chose to go public with it."