Roberto Duran still was crowding Sugar Ray Leonard today when they joined here in the hype for a rematch with tickets scaled at a record top of $1,000 for the Nov. 25 bout in the Superdome in New Orleans. Duran will earn $8 million, Leonard $7 million.
Leonard held out an olive branch to the Panamanian who took his World Boxing Council welterweight title June 20 in Montreal, but Duran slapped Leonard in the face with it and predicted bloodshed.
Leonard reminded interviewers once more that he only said he was going to "kill" Duran in their first bout to beef up the promotion.
The former champion acknowledged today that Duran "knocked the hell out of me in the second round . . . He proved to me he was a greater man on June 20 . . . I consider Duran No. 1 in the welterweight division, including myself, because he is the champion."
But when they were summoned to the microphone to pose for a ritual photograph, with right fists clenched and trying to stare down each other, Duran shook his index finger in Leonard's face and said, "I no like you."
When he got his turn to speak at the microphone, Leonard remarked, "They (his critics) all said I had stupid tactics for the first bout, but I wasn't going up against an ordinary fighter.
"I'm not going to indulge in any hype, like saying I'm going to knock him out in the third round or something like that. I'll just say you're going to see an even greater fight."
Duran came to the microphone with translator/trainer Luis Hernandez, shook his index finger toward Leonard again and said through his interpreter again, "I am not a person who likes to talk; I do my talking in the ring. When Leonard says it will be a better fight, he tells the truth, but he will have to fight much better than he did the last time.
"He said the last time that he was going to kill me. Now is the time for him to do it. He's got to remember one thing: "I'm always smarter than he is." Ray applauded as if he regarded the slur as designed to help sell tickets.
Duran went on, "Most important, you're going to see bloodshed; don't miss it."
He leaned toward Leonard, sitting next to the microphone, and warned him, "Remember, Leonard, I will knock you out. I don't like you," he said, pointing this time with his left hand extended.
When questions were taken from the audience, Leonard was asked if he thought Duran hated him and the challenger said, "It shows."
Why does Duran feel that way?
"I don't like to see clowns in the ring, just boxing," the champion said.
Why didn't he knock out the "clown" in the first bout, which Duran won on a unanimous 15-round decision?
"Because he kept holding," the Panamanian said. "I'm a better man and this time I'll knock him out."
Why is Leonard a clown?
"Can't you see. He tries to imitate Muhammad Ali."
Does Duran resent the show biz aspect of Leonard's career, the fact that Leonard is more popular with the media?
"The publicity he has received does not make me feel the way I feel."
Before Leonard arrived for the news conference in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Duran said, "I'm going to knock out Leonard this time . . . end the bout earlier. I don't like some of the things that happened to me before, during and after the last fight."
Asked to be specific, Duran answered, "They spread reports to the boxing commission in Nevada that I had something wrong with my heart, and I had to take four heart examinations, one the day before the fight."
Ray Arcel, Duran's trainer, was asked if the fight date of Nov. 25 was too soon for the 29-year-old champion to work himself up to another effort like the one he made in the last match.
"A bout always seems to be coming too soon; you're always looking for more time; you do the best you can," Arcel said. "Roberto always can get ready physically and psychologically.
"The last time Roberto was in with a fellow who didn't have much experience, a fellow with a built-up image. Roberto will be ready."
Leonard was asked if he would object to Carlos Padilla, the referee in the first bout who was accused by Leonard's management of letting the champion use roughhouse tactics and accused by Duran's handlers of letting Leonard hold.
"I don't care about the judges or referee this time," Leonard said. "I'm going to fight him the same way but throw a few punches in the early going -- and duck a little more," he said, laughing.
Leonard was questioned about his initial evasiveness about wanting a rematch and said, "After the first fight, I walked to my dressing room, looked in the mirror and didn't like what I saw. But after a rest and some time at home with my family I knew I wanted to fight him again. I did my best the last time. This time I'll have to be better than my best."