As a boxing extravaganza scheduled for Feb. 23 at Madison Square Garden was canceled yesterday, Roberto Duran declared he wants to fight Sugar Ray Leonard again to atone for quitting in their bout on Nov. 25.
A welterweight match between Tommy Hearns and Wilfred Benitez, a heavyweight fight between Gerry Cooney and Ken Norton and two other matches were casualties of the cancellation.
The program was thrown into disarray when embezzlement charges were leveled against Harold Smith, board chairman of Muhammad Ali Professional Sports Inc. (MAPS), copromoter of the card.
Meanwhile, John F.X. Condon, president of the Garden's boxing division, disclosed that he met yesterday with Don King, who made some of Duran's biggest matches, about an offer Condon had made for Duran to oppose Aaron Pryor, World Boxing Council junior welterweight champion, in a non-title welterweight (147 pounds) fight.
In an interview in his native Panama with the New York Daily News, Duran still insisted that he gave up in his WRC title fight against Leonard because of stomach cramps, but his manager said he quit because he was being embarrassed by Leonard.
"In the eighth round I felt I could have fainted if I had continued," Duran said. "Just before I quit, I thought, 'I can't move.' Then I thought, 'Before Leonard cuts me or makes me look worse, I'll just quit.'"
Manager Carlos Eleta was quoted as saying, "He (Duran) was so angry with himself because he was impotent to do what he does every day, and because Sugar Ray was making fun of him . . . In the eighth round he said, "To hell with this fellow; he's making fun of me and I'm not going to fight any more.' But Duran didn't quit because of cramps; he quit because he was embarrassed."
Top Rank, Inc., called a news conference for Wednesday in New York City to give more details about the previously announced match between Leonard and Ayub Kalule of Denmark, who holds the World Boxing Association junior middleweight title.
A spokesman for the Meadowlands arena in East Rutherford, N.J., said Top Rank is considering that site, Las Vegas, and a Southern city for the bout on June 19, but the Meadowlands arena has not been booked. He said a construction committee will meet Thursday to determine if the arena will be finished by June 1.
Condon said he would be interested in having a match between Cooney and Norton only if no other promoter is involved, but said Sam Glass of Tiffany Productions and King have agreed to copromote that bout.