Reports circulated here today that the Internal Revenue Service might seize some of the receipts from the Pipino Cuevas-Tommy Hearns bout Saturday night, pending an accounting of tax obligations.
A spokesman for the promotion said Cuevas has been paid already, tax free, and that there is no problem.
An interpreter for Cuevas said the World Boxing Association welter-weight champion also has settled all previous tax obligations from fights in this country. The local IRS office would not comment.
Cuevas' purse has been reported as $1.5 million; Hearns $500,000.
Reportedly, the first $750,000 was paid to Cuevas in his native Mexico, with the remainder paid here several days ago.
A tax expert, who asked that his name not be used, questioned if Cuevas' total purse were being represented to U.S. tax authorities as less than $1.5 million, despite widespread publicity to the contrary.
Presumably, the promoter paid 30 percent in taxes on the first $750,000, or about $225,000. A similar amount would be due on the remaining $750,000, if if in fact that much was paid.
The promotion has encountered financial difficulties, with disappointing ticket sales for the closed-circuit telecasts throughout the country, as well as for the "live" promotion in the 20,000-seat Joe Louis Arena.
Rafael Mendoz, interpreter for Cuevas, said if there were any way to hold up any money belonging to the champion, there would "be no fight." He recalled that Cuevas was scheduled to fight in Washington D.c., last year, but refused to do so when the promoter failed to produce a prefight guarantee.
Cuevas finished his training today by wrecking the speed bag apparatus with his final punch. It was the second bag he ruined today and the fourth in two days.
Mendoza, Cuevas' biographer -- he wrote the book, "pipino -- The History of a Pair of Fists" -- showed a visitor how Cuevas tore loose a towel rack in his suite in his mounting impatience to reckon with unbeaten challenger Hearns of Detroit.
"Pipino is the real 'Hit Man,'" Mendoza said, alluding to the nickname given Hearns. "That is why Pipino is willing to fight the hero in his hometown.
"He'll fight Roberto Duran in his native Panama or Sugar Ray Leonard in Palmer Park, if the money is right. Pipino didn't make the first defense of his title in Mexico or California, where there would be a lot of Mexican-Americans rooting for him, like the Detroit fans will be for Hearns. Pipino fought Shoji Tsumimoto in his native Japan, and knocked him out.
"He doesn't care about decisions: he hates decisions. He would rather fight Randy Shields again before Duran or Leonard, because he wants to knock out Shields. Shields is the only one he didn't knock out in his title defenses."
Then why is the champ's camp insisting that there be no U.S. judges Saturday night?
"That's his manager, Lupe Snachez. But Pipino is not asking for an official from Mexico. It's his pride; he wants to knock everybody out. A sparring partner quit after Monday's workout; his arms were too sore from Pipino's punches."
How is Cuevas, 5-foot-9, with a 70-inch reach, going to get to Hearns, 62 1/2, with a 78 1/2-inch reach? And isn't Cuevas relatively easy to hit?
"Yes, but he's never been knocked off his feet. He destroys the other fellow's mental attitude when he takes his best punches and nothing happens. It will be like a short Jack Demspey against 6-foot-4 Jess Willard; 5-11 Joe Frazier knocking out 6-3 Bobby Foster, Joe Louis 6-3, against Primo Carnera, 6-6 1/2.
"There's a saying in boxing that a good big man will always beat a good small man. But this is not the case on Saturday; both fighters are welter-weights; the height doesn't matter."