As champion Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard tapered off their training for Tuesday's World Boxing Council welterweight championship rematch, their trainers exchanged stinging verbal punches today.
The topic was alleged "dirty tactics" used by Duran in winning the title from Leonard in June. Angelo Dundee, Leonard's trainer, was the aggressor, with Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown launching a counterattack. Afterward, Dundee said his main purpose was to make everyone aware of what he said cost his fighter his first defeat.
Dundee referred to Duran's brawling in the first bout, which he won by unanimous decision. Dundee accused Duran of butting, shoving and pushing. "I want to thank Roberto for a 15-round education of my guy," Dundee went on. "He wrestled him down once; the only thing he didn't do was hit him when he was down.
"We're working on a few things. If Roberto want to be rough, we'll be rough. Duran's combination punches always end with a butt. He practiced for it by hitting the bag with his head. If Duran resorts to that stuff again he'll find himself outside the ring. He kept his head on my guy's chest all night long.
"It's his best weapon; he's a very 'heady' fighter. He busted up the middle of Ray's head once; Ray was full of lumps."
Dundee was asked, "What effect will your griping and complaining have on the referee? Do you train Leonard to combat that?"
"No, just to counteract it. I just everyone to be aware," said Dundee.
Leonard said after a brief shakeout, "That first bout was a wrestling match, not a boxing match in any shape or form. It was two guys trying to show who was stronger; no boxing techniques whatever."
Arcel, Duran's 82-year-old trainer, said, "Three times Roberto came back to the corner and told me, 'This guy is thumbing me in the eye.' That is a vile trick. Who told him to do that? It could blind a man."
Brown, another aged trainer for Duran, occasioned a chuckle with his wheezing "Godfather" voice when he said, "Leonard is making an excuse ahead of time, to intimidate the referee. But he's got to fight."
"Angelo is my pupil," Arcel said. "He has come a long way. If he is willing to pop off like he did, it is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who knows boxing. He learned it all from Muhammad Ali. It isn't true that Roberto is a foul fighter; Duran is a fighter. One fellow is throwing punches (Duran) and the other is holding on for dear life.
"When Roberto knocked out Ken Buchanan for the lightweight title, Buchanan claimed a foul, too. In 71 bouts, Roberto never lost a round on a foul.
"He knows more than Leonard will ever know; Leonard's just a graduate of amateur boxing. The question is, what effect will the memory of the last fight have on Ray walking into the ring?"
Brown added, "Leonard decidedly was doing the holding, but the referee (Carlos Padilla) told Roberto to keep fighting, and he tried to keep pulling his arms loose. Leonard is trying to 'psych' out the referee."
Brown was asked, "Are you going to double-team the referee again (an allusion to Duran's management reportedly lobbying WBC President Jose Sulaiman and referee Padilla to let Duran fight inside)?"
"No," Brown sneered, "we'll tell the referee in the dressing room. Leonard busted up Wilfred Benitez with his head when he won the title from Benitez."
Duran made no attempt to talk to the English-speaking media representatives, but the Panamanian was in his element during the workout in the Orleans Parish prison work-release center. There, scores of Spanish-speaking admirers accompanied him. It was a West Side Story motif, with the swaggering bearded champion in leather jacket and wool cap, working out with a diamond in his right ear lobe.
And he did a lot of talking. He was laughing from the first moment he began to shadow box. He was no longer the scowling guy with the thousand-yard stare of a soldier at attention, seeming to see no one.
He conducted an ad lib comic routine with the spectators, nonstop, repeatedly raising gales of laughter. A translator said Duran chuckled at earning just $25 for his first bout, While Leonard received $40,000 for his first bout out of the amateur ranks.
Duran accused manager Carlos Eleta of once paying him off a purse of $800 in single bills so that it would seem like more in the fighter's pocket. This time he gets $10 million. So why shouldn't he laugh?