ugar Ray Leonard, fresh from his third-round technical knockout of Bruce Finch, said today he would like very much to make the next defense of his world welterweight championship in Washington, D.C.
"I would enjoy that," Leonard said when asked he if was interested in fighting Roger Stafford, the World Boxing Association's second-ranked welterweight, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in May.
"I haven't fought at home in some time," the 25-year-old native of Palmer Park, Md., continued. "It would be a real treat."
Leonard has a tentative agreement to meet Stafford in May, if the 26-year-old from Philadelphia can get past David Madrid, an unranked welterweight from Mexico. That fight is set for March 2 at the Tropicana in Atlantic City.
"We'd really like to do something in D.C.," said Mike Trainer, Leonard's attorney and financial adviser. "I've already asked Bob Sigholtz (general manager of the Armory Board) to check into it and see what it would cost.
"I'm going to Phoenix for a few days of golf, but I hope to talk with Bob when I get home next week. I don't have any problems with him, he's one of the easiest people to deal with."
Sigholtz was fogged in in the Midwest today and unavailable for comment, his office said.
There are two possible hangups involved in staging the title bout at RFK: television and the weather.
"We couldn't have it at RFK unless the networks agreed to black out Washington and Baltimore," Trainer explained. "We'd like to have this one on free television, but sometimes the networks don't like to black out two major markets."
There always is a threat of rain, but Trainer already is looking into insurance and a covering that would protect the ring and the playing field without obstructing the view of those sitting in the grandstand.
"The infield is very important because that's the key to the gate," Trainer explained. "If we could see ringside seats at $150 and make our financial nut, we could scale down the grandstand seats so all of Ray's fans could come.
"I'm thinking about $20 for the upper grandstand and $40 for the lower. I'd just like to see a lot of people there. It would be nice to give the fans of Washington a chance to see Ray fight in person."
The fact that Stafford is from Philadelphia also could attract boxing fans from that area. An alternative to RFK is Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, but that would mean the networks would have to black out New York City.
"I would hope to gross a couple of million dollars," Trainer said when asked what the total package at RFK could bring. "I'd be foolish to get involved if we couldn't make that."
Trainer has an unusual plan that would eliminate preliminary fights. Instead, he would book several musical groups and try to create a party-like, concert atmosphere.
"We could start with some local groups like 4 in the afternoon, then bring in a big-name group and turn it into a real happening," Trainer said. "Ray could light up the place and this could show other promoters that RFK is a good place to hold a fight. It's not as complicated as people think."
Stafford was here and watched Leonard knock down Finch three times before the fight was stopped Monday night at 1:50 of the third round.
"I have a commitment first," he said when asked about fighting Leonard. "I have to beat Madrid, but I can't wait for the date to be set."
Stafford has an 18-2 record and recently defeated Pipino Cuevas in Las Vegas. Still, he is ranked second behind Cuevas in the WBA's latest ratings.
"The night I beat Cuevas I got a telegram saying that Leonard wanted to fight me," Stafford said. "But I feel I need one more fight first to sharpen up."
Dan Duva of Main Events Productions Inc., sent the telegram and said today that Stafford will earn "maybe 2 1/2 times as much for fighting Leonard as Fitch did."
Fitch, who said he never had earned more than $3,000 for a fight, had a contract calling for $85,000 and an estimated $15,000 for training expenses. After splitting with his managers and two trainers, the 27-year-old former club fighter from Milwaukee probably will wind up with about $30,000. Leonard's cut for the sold-out fight and revenue from Home Box Office was approximately $1 million. Also, ABC is expected to buy the rights to show the fight in a couple of weeks.
After surprising Leonard with his aggressiveness and winning the first round, Finch failed to capitalize after pinning the champion in the corner early in the second round.
"I didn't follow up, that was my big mistake," said Finch, who had a string of 11 straight victories snapped. "I learned a lot from this fight. Ray is one of the fastest guys I ever fought."
Leonard appeared angered after being hit several times in the corner and suddenly swarmed over the startled Finch, much in the manner he attacked Tommy Hearns in the 14th round of their title fight last September in Las Vegas. He knocked down Finch for a nine-count and then a seven-count in the second round before finishing him off in the third.
"He shook me up," Leonard admitted this morning. "He made me realize this was for real. He's a very awkward fighter and it took me a little while to time him. But I saw some areas not protected and knew I could take advantage of them."
After the Stafford bout, there is a possibility that Leonard will return to Reno in September to meet either the winner of the Cuevas-Chung Jae Hwang fight or Alexis Arguello, the WBC lightweight champion. Harrah's already is talking about building an outdoor arena for the event.
"The Arguello fight still is in negotiations," said Leonard. "Something may materialize in the fall. I love it here in Reno. I'll be back, I guarantee that."