When it was all over Saturday night and Sugar Ray Leonard had successfully defended his WBC welterweight title in a fight he had defended all week, he told the assembled multitudes it was time to stop calling Larry Bonds a garbage man.
"It doesn't bother me," said Bonds, who lost the fight on a 10th-round TKO. "It's the truth. That's exactly what I am."
The soft-spoken sanitation man, who had not been in the ring since April 1980, said this morning: "I don't like to make excuses for anything, but if I had had a couple of more fights, it would have been a hell of a lot more better fight."
If he had had more than a month to prepare, he said, if he had anticipated a referee who would warn Leonard about late blows . . .
Now, Leonard had had enough, just as he when Bonds came out of his corner at the beginning of the 10th round mimicking Leonard's patented bolo punch. It was time for the Garbage Man to stop talking trash, Leonard said.
"I'm a little disappointed in Bonds, the things he's saying now," Leonard said. "Here, we're finding excuses: his inactivity; if he had more fights, he would have looked better; the referee stopping it too soon; me punching after the bell -- that's a bunch of bull."
Bonds, a southpaw, has said all along that he doesn't get fights because he makes good fighters look bad. Saturday night was no exception, at least in the eyes of the fans. If Leonard had knocked Bonds out in the first round, they would have been unhappy; when he didn't knock him out in 10, they were unhappy.
Leonard said, "Bonds was never a threat." Between the three judges, the challenger was awarded only one round, Carol Castallano giving Bonds the fifth.
As for the crowd booing the decision, Leonard said, "The public only remembers Duran II. I don't care who I fight. If it doesn't compare to Benitez or Duran II, it's not a good fight."
If Bonds, of whom little was expected, fought "up" against Leonard then Leonard fought "down," and the level of competition came out somewhere in the middle. Leonard orchestrated the fight, from the golden "I Love Syracuse" cape he wore into the ring, to the action, which he carried to Bonds throughout. He jabbed and pursued relentlessly, backing Bonds into the ropes and knocking him down in the fourth and in the 10th. Referee Arthur Mercante stopped the fight with 2:22 gone in the 10th as Bonds took yet more punishment.
Leonard said he was satisified with his performance: "I did the most effective thing I could do: bullying him . . . I was superior inside. The average contender, the average champion, would have gone down."
More than 21,000 people paid to see the fight, assuring Leonard of the $750,000 take-home his lawyer had predicted. Bonds, who earns about $12,000 a year as a garbage man, received $85,000, plus $15,000 for expenses (half the total goes to his managers, according to Carl King).
After a short vacation, it's back to the cans for Bonds, but not back to oblivion. His most memorable moment was the press, he said. "I've never had this much press before."
Leonard will again fight a southpaw June 25 in his WBA junior-middleweight fight with Ayub Kalule. Leonard says he has no Intention of forsaking the welterweight division. "I'd be more than happy to fight Thomas Hearns whenever he comes to his senses," Leonard said. "I would fight Thomas Hearns as a heavyweight."
It appears very likely he will fight Hearns. Prentiss Byrd, one of Hearns' representatives, confirmed that the two fighters are very close to making a deal for a title bout in September or October. Asked when the fight might be announced, he said, "Sometime this week."
The last word on the battle in Syracuse was left to Little Ray Leonard, who sat at his father's side during this morning's press conference. Asked what he thought of his father's performance last night, Little Ray hesitated. His father whispered in his ear. There was no comment.