Sugar Ray Leonard's management said yesterday his international bout on March 31 with Dave (boy) Green is being shifted from Las Vegas to Capital Centre out of deference to the champion's stature as "a headliner . . . a main event guy."
It will be hometowner Leonard's first appearance since he won the World Boxing Council title from Wilfred Benitez on Nov. 30.
The bout with Green, a farmer from Cambridge, England, will be one of four championship contests on March 31 in three different sites, all of which WILL BE CARRIED ON PRIME TIME TELEVISION (ABC).
In Las Vegas, Larry Holmes will defend his WBC heavyweight title against Leroy Jones. In Knoxville, Tenn., John Tate will defend his World Boxing Association heavyweight title against Mike Weaver, and Marvin Johnson will defend his WBA light heavyweight title against Eddie Gregory.
"We like to headline the card where Ray is fighting," attorney Mike Trainer said of the location shift. "It would detract from Ray's posture if we had him on the same show with Holmes at Las Vegas and Ray would be a distraction to Holmes.
"We have been away too long," Trainer said of the recent bridegroom Leonard's eight bouts on the road since stopping Johnny Gant at Capital Centre, Jan. 11, 1979.
"We don't want to be thought of as a Las Vegas fighter, like those who can't draw anywhere else."
Leonard drew a record Maryland boxing crowd for his bout with Gant and sold out the Caesars Palace sports pavilion (capacity 4,700) at $250 tops for his bout with Benitez, Tickets for his bout with Green will be priced from $10 to $100, No blackout of the telecast is planned for the Washington area.
Fans at home can see all four title bouts on free television, and those at Capital Centre will see the other three title bouts on the screen there, plus live preliminaries featuring welterweight Gant and junior featherweight Derrik Holmes.
Leonard will probably get the star billing on the telecast, going on last, based on the former Olympic champion's previous high TV ratings, compared with those of Holmes and Tate.
Holmes-Tate, Tate-Weaver, and Johnson-Gregory do not have the appeal of Leonard, even against Green, ranked No. 10 welterweight contender by the WBC.
Winning top billing from ABC over two heavyweight title bouts and drawing well at Capital Centre without a blackout would send an implicit message to Roberto Duran from Leonard.
The former lightweight champion from Panama has been offered $1 million to fight Leonard in May or June, if Duran accepts by Feb. 15. Otherwise, Leonard will make plans after the Green bout to fight Jose (Pipino) Cuevas, WBA welterweight champion, or give a rematch to former WBC champion Benitez.
Leonard's management recognizes that Duran also is a top attraction, as a crowd-pleasing puncher.
But attorney Trainer cites Leonard's appeal to the networks and the fact that he now rates the champion's end of purses, noting that, though Leonard was clearly the main draw when he fought Benitez, he had to accept $1million while the Puerto Rican was paid $1.2 million because he was the champion.
Green arrived in New York City from London yesterday and his manager, Andy Smith, said the 26-year-old has never been decisioned in winning 33 of 35 bouts 26 by knockouts. He has been stopped twice, once by former WBC titleholder Carlos Palomino in a championship bout in 1977.
"His style is like Rocky Graziano's with a lot of tight and a lot of hear You would have to shoot him to beat him. Leonard is the technician."
Smith explained that Green's nickname, "Boy", is common in his part of England and is analagous to "mate" or "friend".
Green will be here today to tell the media that Leonard is "wasting his time" planning ahead for a but with Duran, because Green expects to take the title.