Talk of a third Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns fight refuses to die, mainly because Leonard and Hearns keep talking about it.

"We've spoken at length about it together and we both can't get any farther in our careers without it," the Associated Press quoted Leonard as saying from his Tampa training camp, where he is preparing to fight Terry Norris Feb. 9 in New York.

"The rematch is imminent," Hearns told the Detroit News. "It must happen. I can't go on to the next fight until this one has been resolved."

Leonard, 34, and Hearns, 32, fought to a draw in June 1989, though it appeared that Hearns won the bout on the strength of two knockdowns. Leonard stopped Hearns in the 14th round of their first fight in September 1981.

Michael Trainer, Leonard's lawyer, yesterday played down the possibility of Leonard-Hearns III. Trainer said that Hearns recently has put on weight and is now at 185. "At Ray's age, he has to fight people his own size," Trainer said.

Leonard is preparing to come in at 154 for Norris, the World Boxing Council junior middleweight champion.

Trainer said that Hearns was going "in the opposite direction" as far as weight is concerned, and that there was no indication from Hearns when Leonard spoke to him recently that Hearns could get into the low 160s for a third meeting with Leonard.

"Sure, they'd probably love to fight one another," Trainer acknowledged, but insisted that there was no sign it would happen. "Ray's got to have a level playing field," he said, with regard to the current weight difference.

But Leonard (36-1-1) and Hearns (47-3-1) could become a reality by late summer if Hearns takes off the weight. Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the man Leonard wants to fight more than anyone, has shown no indication of unretiring.

"Right now, we're tied," Leonard said of Hearns. "I've won one and he's won one. The last fight I consider was the one he won.

"If he can give me the satisfaction of a rematch before I walk into the sunset, I'll be happy."