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Sandoval's Title Is Taken Lightly : Life Isn't So Marvelous for Bantamweight Champion

March 08, 1986|EARL GUSTKEY | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — Bantamweight champion of the world.

It sounds good, so it must count for some thing, right?

That's what Pomona's Richie Sandoval thought, too, late on the night of April 7, 1984, in Atlantic City. That was the night he took the World Boxing Assn. championship away from Jeff Chandler.

"We had a big celebration at the hotel that night," Sandoval said the other day. "The only thing I could think of was that after all the years of work and sacrifice, I'd reached my reward, I'd become the champion of the world, that the big paydays were on their way."

Now, nearly two years since that night, here is what Sandoval says it's like to be the bantamweight champion of the world:

"I feel like I'm always trying to borrow money from strangers, and I hate that feeling. It's almost like begging. I always thought when you became a champion, you're dues had been paid. But it isn't that way at all.

"I almost feel like the promoters think I'll 'keep' for a few years, until some big-name, hotshot young guy comes up and they'll throw me in against him when they think I'm washed up, give me a big payday and say: 'OK, Richie, here's your big chance.' "

Sandoval isn't exactly a welfare case. He earned $50,000 for beating Chandler, $100,000 for beating Cardenio Ulloa and will make at least $37,500 for boxing Texan Gaby Canizales Monday night at Caesars Palace on the undercard of the Marvin Hagler-John Mugabi and Thomas Hearns-James Shuler fights.

But in his sport and even in his own town, Pomona, Sandoval feels not like a world champion but like a stranger. For example:

--On Wednesday, not one member of the promotion staff at Caesars Palace knew where Sandoval was staying here this week or even where he was working out.

Hearns, Mugabi and Shuler have had regularly scheduled public workouts at Caesars all week.

Where's Sandoval? At the Golden Gloves gym, on the other side of town.

He's staying at the Maxim Hotel, down the street. "Caesars told us they ran out of rooms," said his trainer, Tony Cerda.

--About 40 Southern California cable TV stations are carrying Monday's card, but not TCI Pomona Cable Television, in Sandoval's hometown.

"Who's Richie Sandoval?" a station employee asked when a caller questioned why the station wasn't carrying the show.

--The City of Pomona is threatening to evict Sandoval from his Police Athletic League gym, a converted church near Pomona's civic center.

Said Cerda: "Richie brings a world championship to Pomona and what happens? The city kicks him out of his gym, where he's boxed since he was 7 years old."

"It's discouraging," Sandoval said. "I'm a world champion, I'm 29-0 and when I ask people how come I can't get TV dates they make me feel . . . well, like I'm trying to borrow money."

Cerda blames the sporting media, for focusing a disproportionate amount of boxing coverage on "fat heavyweights who've never been in shape in their lives."

He said: "Richie looks around and sees welterweights and middleweights getting seven-digit paydays and can't understand why he's not even close to that yet. He wonders what he has to do.

"Personally, I blame the media. Sportswriters keep writing all the time that there isn't any interest in bantamweights. The network TV guys read that, and they assume the sportswriters must be right."

Bob Arum, who is promoting the Monday show, agrees. At a Beverly Hills news conference a week ago, he lashed out at the networks for not buying Sandoval-Canizales, which had been available for about a year.

"New York-based network TV executives think all Hispanics are Puerto Ricans," Arum said.

New York-based network TV executives heatedly deny that they believe all Hispanics are Puerto Ricans.

"I personally find it offensive (Arum's remark), and I'm sure everyone else at the network finds it offensive," said Alex Wallau, boxing coordinator at ABC.

"We've had Richie on the network twice, so Arum is incorrect in addition to being silly.

"It is true there is a preponderance of heavyweights on network shows. For whatever reason, there is an American fascination with heavyweights. Just look at the ratings. The highest audience share for any TV boxing show last year was Carl Williams-Jesse Ferguson.

"ABC has televised a lot of lighter weight bouts. We had Jeff Chandler on about four times, and we did a lot of (Roberto) Duran fights when he was a young lightweight. The same with Alexis Arguello."

Said NBC boxing coordinator Kevin Monaghan: "We think Sandoval-Canizales is a very attractive fight and we were interested, but our problem is we have only 11 boxing dates budgeted for 1986. We felt each of these fighters lacked a certain marquee value."

CBS boxing coordinator Mort Sharnik said that Sandoval's career has suffered because of former President Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics--Sandoval had made the U.S. Olympic team--and because Sandoval doesn't wear gold jewelry, designer sunglasses and talk a lot.

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