Today we will talk about Roberto Duran's ugly, scratchy beard. We'll also tell you about Sugar Ray Leonard's secret, hush-hush workout. But first, let's take care of the business about the referee and judges for Tuesday's welterweight championship fight. If you remember, the World Boxing Council's chosen men were the Three Stooges Plus One when Leonard and Duran met five months ago.
Some experts insist Leonard would have won had the referee done more than sleepwalk for 15 rounds. They say the somnambulating Spaniard, Carlos Padilla, allowed Duran to bully, butt and brawl. The referee's incompetence, they say, certified as foolish a crew of WBC officials who couldn't even add up the scores correctly.
The subsequent correction in addition did not affect the outcome of the fight, save to make the decision unanimous by changing a judge's scorecard from a draw to a one-point victory for Duran. What the mistake did was prompt the question. "What is the WBC, and who, if anyone, runs it?"
The World Boxing Council is a joke masquerading as a primary governing body of boxing. The president is Jose Sulaiman, a Mexican whose office is in his hat. As to where the power lies in the WBC, the answer is written in a single telephone call to the room of Don King.
"Could I speak to Mr. King, please? This is Jose Sulaiman, president of the World Boxing Council," the president said to the man answering the phone.
This was six weeks ago in Las Vegas. King is the fight promoter, the Grand Canyon of grandiloquency, the reformed numbers runner who now includes presidents of the United States in his soliloquies, the man whose hair stands straight up, as if electrocuted.
"King is doing an interview," someone told Sulaiman whose hair stands straight up, as if electrocuted.
"King is doing an interview," someone told Sulaiman, who practically begged then saying, "Please, I have been waiting, as he told me, for two hours now. I must speak to him."
King went to the phone, King the promoter of the Ali-Holmes fight there, King whose fight was sanc Into the telephone, King said, "Jose, I'm busy. Wait."
And he hung up on the president.
Not that he thinks it will do any good, But Angelo Dundee, Leonard's sly manager, has spent the last couple of days yelling out loud that the referee for Tuesday's rematch should be unalterably opposed to what he calls Duran's "Bully-boy brawling and butting. If Duran can't hit you with his head, he can't fight."
What's more, Dundee said, the referee and judges must be oblivious to "The Duran mystique."
Only a hard-hearted cynic, or a lamb exposed to the fight game for five minutes, would think Don King has influence over Jose Suliaman, whose WBC lives only on the nourishment of King's promotions. The mix also includes this: Duran has pledged his loyalty to King, saying he will fight for no other promoter.
Even the sweetest lamb must ask a question then: Do you think King could arrange a referee and judges inclined to look upon Duran with admiration, if not adoration?
Anyway, Dundee is doing his best to assure that the WBC's four fight officials "know the whole world is watching what they do in a fight of this magnitude." Dirk Durden, vice chairman of the Nevada's Athletic Commission, is representing the WBC until Sulaiman arrives. Durden says the referee and judges, whose names will not be announced until Tuesday, will be chosen without regard to nationality or style of work ("Jose Sulaiman will choose the most competent officials there are," Durden said).
By raising his ruckus, Dundee has tried to identify what he calls "the Duran mystique." Dundee believes judges fall under the spell of Duran's angry look and perpetual motion. Without Duran landing a solid punch, Dundee says, judges yet believe he wins a round. And because Duran moves forward so relentlessly, Dundee says, the champion gets away with using his head against an opponent's chest to pin him in place.
As symbol of this mystique, Dundee has chosen Duran's substantial beard. The beard is scraggly and spotty, as if the champion tried shaving with a butter knife. Dundee says the WBC ought to make him get a real razor.
Look, Dundee is a sweetheart. But this is laughable. Among other things, Dundee today said, "The beard's gotta come off. My kid got scratched by it the last time." Dundee also said the beard "is really ugly, and that's not good for the sport."
(That line was the comic highlight of a press conference today, although not much better than King's announcement he had invited President-elect Reagan to the fight Tuesday, adding with hyperbolic solemnity, "This fight will be the closest we ever get to war under a Reagan Administration -- Duran and Leonard, an encounter of the fourth kind.")
For his part, Leonard says he doesn't care who the referee and judges are. "I'll break the clinches myself," he said. "The first fight didn't adhere to the Marquess of Queensbury rules, for sure. We stood our ground. Just fought. This time I will utilize my skills better. The referee will make no difference."
Duran on a referee: "I only want a referee who knows how to count from one to 10."
On Tuesday, eight days before the fight, Leonard closed his workout to the media and public.
"We worked on a few techniques, a few little strategies to put the icing on my training," Leonard said. "We were doing something we don't want the public to see until the 25th."
A fellow who believes Duran to be the best fighter alive heard Leonard's words about his secret training.
This fellow said, "Ray's learning how to handle a whip and a chair."