Sugar Ray Leonard, more than anyone else from the Washington, D.C., contingent here for Friday night's fight, knows what Derrik Holmes is going through as he sweats out the hours before challenging Wilfredo Gomez (WRC-TV-4, 10:05 p.m.) "It doesn't matter how many other busts you have been in," Leonard said. "Your first championship bout is different. It's the pressure, the glaring lights, the television cameras, the celebrities, the fans shouting to you. It took me about seven days to wind down from the tension I built up for my title bout here with Wilfred Benitez.
"I was not nearly so tense for my bout with Roberto Duran. All I thought of was wanting to beat him."
Holmes is gunning for the World Boxing Council super bantamweight title held by Gomez in the New Carrllton, Md., challenger's 16th bout.
These events are pretty much commonplace for Puerto Rican Gomez, who has successfully defended his championship 11 times -- all by knockouts, of course, since his 29 victories in 30 fights have been decided that way.
Leonard was asked how Holmes could beat Gomez, an overwhelming favorite.
"Derrik can box his ears off," Leonard said. "He's got the hand speed and the foot speed. What he has to do when Gomez charges him is be ready with a cocked punch, to make Gomez respect him, and Holmes can punch hard enough.
"He's got a good chance," Leonard said of the neighbor he has sparred with. "He can do it physically, but this will be a psychological fight for him, because of the pressure. It's how he uses his head under the title-bout tension."
Gomez's style is something like Duran's. He exerts a steady pressure, counts heavily on body shots to wear down opponents and then relies on his "smarts" and conditioning to set them up for overhand rights.
Holmes is a combination boxer-puncher -- quick and lean, with a good jab. He has accounted for 10 of his 14 victories, against one draw, by knockout. He is encouraged by the memory of having knocked out Gomez in the first round in an amateur bout six years ago.
The holmes camp has shown some concern because it will be the challenger's first fight scheduled for 15 rounds. He has gone 10 rounds twice, winning both by decision.