He has no Olympic gold medal and he has never been compared with Sugar Ray Leonard. But Mike (Nino) Gonzalez thinks he can beat Roberto Duran, anyway.
"I'm going to surprise him good. This is going to be an upset," said Gonzalez (24-1), who will take on Duran in a 10-year junior middleweight fight Sunday at the Cleveland Public Auditorium. The fight will start at 4:30 p.m. and will be televised in Washington by WDVM-TV-9.
The last time Roberto Duran was upset, his stomach was the opponent. Duran (72-2) ate two steaks before his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard on Nov. 25 and suffered cramps during the bout, he said. He quit in the eighth round of that welterweight title match. Then, he quit the ring.
Now, he is back, having heard the call of shattered pride and promoter Don King. He will receive $150,000 for this fight, compared with the $8 million he got for his last one. Gonzalez will receive $50,000, about $45,000 more than he has ever earned before.
"I am returning to the ring only to fight Leonard again and to beat him," Duran, 30, said. His only other career loss was to Esteban deJesus in 1972. Duran knocked out deJesus twice in rematches.
Duran beat Leonard in their first welterweight title fight June 20, 1980. Since their second fight, Leonard has moved up to the junior middleweight class. Duran has followed.
And what of Nino Gonzalez, a 22-year-old from Bayonne, N.J.? The only fight he has lost was to Steve Delgado, who he knocked out in a return match. Gonzalez won the New Jersey welterweight title and acquired the name "Nino" because a friend believed he looked like former middleweight champion Nino Bevenuti.
It should also be noted that Nino Gonzalez -- a truancy officer at Bayonne High School -- has a poster on his wall of a boxer named Roberto Duran, a boxer he admires and used to spar with.
At today's weigh-in, Duran glared at his opponent and shouted at him in Spanish. Duran weighed in at 155 pounds, one pound over the limit, and Gonzalez weighed in at 152.
"I must respect his skills," said Duran, who had several more steaks after his retirement, then lost 25 pounds to get near the weight limit. Duran will next fight Babes McCarthy in late September in Las Vegas. "It bothers me that I have to start back here," he said, wanting a return to the lemon-line light of Sugar Ray (7-Up) Leonard.
Duran insists that he is more determined now than ever, particularly after the recent death of Panamanian Gen. Omar Torrijos in a plane crash. Duran was a close friend of Torrijos.
"We tried to get a private plane to fly back to Panama, but we couldn't get one," said Luis Henriquez, Duran's manager and interpreter. "Then, we tried to fly back commercially, but we couldn't do that, either, because of the strike here.
"Roberto spoke on TV back to Panama twice ad he broke down cryig both times. He was very saddened. It was my job to report back to the general after every one of Duran's fights. Duran is a very important man in Panama."