The list is swelling, and now it is Roberto Duran who is threatening a comeback, the last refuge of punched-out old fighters with fantasies of renewing the big paydays.

In this ambition to return to the boxing wars, Duran joins Larry Holmes, who was presumed well-rid-of, and Gerry Cooney, the reluctant gladiator who reappears at spaced-out intervals. He is the Halley's comet of heavyweights.

These three are on the same road Alexis Arguello, in quest of a fourth title, started down Sunday with his fourth-round knockout of Billy Costello.

As for Duran, his first three retirements did not stick, and now he says he wants the junior middleweight title he used to own. This, for personal vindication and the glory of the people of Panama. The same people who booed him out of Panama after he went into his doubled-up "no mas" stance in round eight against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, signaling the referee that his evening should be considered ended.

As if to prove that at 34 he is serious and intends to be valiant in his new bid for a title, Duran says he is "down" to 175 pounds. This, his trainer says, is progress. A while back, he was at 200 pounds, this fellow who won the lightweight title at 130 before his appetite grew with each title he won. Duran became boxing's version of the late great catcher, Shanty Hogan, who ate himself out of two leagues, the National and American.

Duran was most certainly one of the great fighters of two decades, the 1960s and 1970s, maybe the finest of them all. Naturally, there are promoters in waiting, ready to re-exploit his fame.

According to one of his close friends in Panama, the factor most responsible for bringing Duran back to the ring is his finances. They are in a state of exhaustion. Duran's spending habits squandered all three $5 million paydays he had for two bouts with Leonard and one against Marvin Hagler.

Four of his last five big fights were punishing defeats for Duran -- the eight-round battering by Leonard in 1980, the 15-rounder he lost to Wilfred Benitez in 1982 that was described as "constant disaster" for Duran, those 15 brutal rounds against Hagler in late 1983 and the savage two-round knockout by Tommy Hearns in 1984.

Even when his one-time huge fortune was nearly gone, Duran was spending $8,000 a week on his high living, said his Panama friend. Oh well, easy come, easy go.

As for Larry Holmes' comeback, uneasy lies the head that no longer wears the crown.

Holmes is upset and wants to prove he can lick Michael Spinks, the light heavyweight he couldn't beat the last time he defended his title.

Holmes is not fighting from hunger. He is the wealthiest of all boxers, past and present. He may be fighting simply out of pride, or out of a desire to add to capital, which is no sin. But as perhaps the most boring and insufferable braggart in heavyweight history, he surely is not returning to the ring by public demand.

Cooney, who also wants to fight Michael Spinks, would be taking a 30-pound advantage into the ring. This could explain Cooney's sudden interest in returning to the boxing wars, from which he has been in the habit of absenting himself for long, unexplained periods.

He has been the phantom heavyweight. Cooney prepared for his losing challenge to Holmes by fighting only six rounds in three years. After that loss, he disappeared for two years, finally surfacing above the Arctic Circle, keeping an appointment in Alaska to knock out somebody's sparring partner.

Little more was heard from Cooney until last December, when he was arrested in Harrisburg, Pa., following an altercation in a hotel bar. The charge against Cooney was disorderly conduct, a mode of behavior he might have made better use of the night he lost to Holmes.