The fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns will not take place for nearly three months, very likely on Sept. 16 in Las Vegas; their fussing already has begun. They are appearing on the same card here Thursday night, champions of the same division fighting different opponents. Hearns wants to be seen as more worthy.
In boxing, that is done in subtle ways. If the pictures on prefight posters are of equal size, the man on the left side is regarded as the best.
Hearns has that spot here.
Also, the superior fighter is said to be the one whose bout is last. Hearns covets that position Thursday, even though it might mean he will rip apart Pablo Baez before only blood kin and antsy cleanup crews, everybody else having left after Leonard's match against Ayub Kalule.
If Hearns sees these matters as fights, his success will have come in a walkover. Leonard has offered almost no resistance. In a choice between ego and money, he will take the cash every time.
"For the right price," said Leonard's attorney, Mike Trainer, smiling but not entirely in jest, "I'd keep Ray's picture completely off the posters."
If his charm and ability have brought Leonard unimagined wealth, this attitude will be his legacy, his contribution to future boxers and a sport where many more backs than necessary are scratched. For each fight Trainer finds another way to be more efficient, to eliminate another dozen middlemen, to make more certain Leonard gets what rightfully is his.
"Every promotion we've been involved in (since Leonard's debut Feb. 5, 1977) there's been a new wrinkle, some new way to maximize income for Ray Leonard," Trainer said. "If you start from the beginning, what seemed logical to me -- but apparently had not been done before -- was a fighter going directly to an arena, saying, I'll get the arena to go to the opponent, sign him and then arrange for her undercard.But I'll make my deal first -- and know how much money is to be realized from this event.'
"The second thng we did that apparently was different was to go directly to the (television) networks. By doing that, the arena didn't get its normal 10 percent of TV rights. My thinking was that since we don't get any hot dog money why should they get any TV rights when the only reason TV is there is because of Ray?
"That was at the start."
From matching the major networks against each other, has come closed-circuit television. And what seems the ultimate in that market, pay-as-you-view television, a source of income that jolts the mind for Leonard-Hearns but really will be scratching the surface because so much of the country is not equipped for that luxury.
"It was significant in the first one (Leonard-Duran fight)," Trainer said. "It grew for Ali-Holmes; it grew for Leonard-Duran II; it's gonna be scary for Leonard-Hearns, no question about it."
Scary meaning what?
"More than any network ever paid for a prime-time fight."
"Over $5 million."
Trainer is proud of what he has accomplished, but also aware that other heavyweight lawyers could have been as successful. He emphasizes that most of Leonard's fighting fortune was made possible by being fortunate enough to come under the influence of Janks Morton, who knew legal help was necessary and also knew Trainer.
There has been no significent cause for second-guessing.
"I know for a fact that if I screwed up financially," Trainer said, "If I'd missed a situation where someone else got what should have been Ray's money, I'd have heard about it. I'm not that important in boxing, not a threat to anybody, but because I stand out so much everyone would like to say: 'He's not so damn bright. Look what he did here.'"
And what will he be doing in the future? Only about a third of what Trainer does for Leonard involves fighting, he said. Soon there will be a television series called "Sugar Ray Leonard's Golden Gloves" that will involve amateur boxing teams in national competition. And another featuring Leonard and young athletes.
"The only times I've been disappointed in this business," Trainer said, "have been where I've dealt with people and given them more credit than they deserved. Something I assumed they knew how to do, because they'd been doing it, and I went probably went against my own common sense.
"There are very few things in this (nontechnical) world that your common sense isn't a good guide for. In the everyday business world, common sense is right on the money. Don't ascribe some magical formula."
Trainer's instincts told him the ringside seats here, at $300, were overpriced by 50 percent. The natives said no; the advance sale has not been overwhelming. He wanted the Duran rematch to be here instead of New Orleans, but was persuaded against it. He still is angry about Don King's role in that financial fiasco and frustrated that seemingly sound businessmen would spend so much more for the event than it deserved.
Naturally, Leonard did not lose a penny.
Common sense will be involved in Leonard's future. Who he fights mainly will be who the most customers want him to.
"What you have to do is look at it this way," said Trainer, looking ahead. "While some writers knew about him, Tommy Hearns really didn't surface as an opponent for Ray Leonard until Duran was out of the way. Once Duran was out of the way people wondered who was left and said: 'Ray had better never fight Tommy Hearns.' Most of them had never seen him.
"I can't tell you how many people who saw him against Randy Shields said: 'That's Tommy Hearns?' The same ones who were crying not to fight him. He surfaced, just like Marvin Hagler will become an even bigger opponent when Ray gets by Tommy Hearns. He's more valuable the more mysterious he is."