Fankie Duarte always had his dreams.
Even back in those dark days when his mind was scrambled with too much alcohol and too many drugs, he would dose off and dream of a better world.
"I would have a dream that I had won a title," Duarte said. "Then I would wake up in a nightmare."
Duarte could sleep peacefully Thursday night because when he woke up he'd still be the North American Boxing Federation bantamweight champion, a title he won at the Forum before a crowd of 4,753 by scoring a ninth-round TKO over Jesus Salud of Honolulu.
The victory in the scheduled 12-round match also gave Duarte the championship of a Forum bantamweight tournament along with the winning purse of $50,000. The fight was stopped by agreement between ringside doctors and Salud's corner because of swelling that had completly closed Salud's left eye. Duarte was ahead on all three cards and had been given seven rounds by each of the judges.
For the 22-year-old Salud, 117, it was the first defeat in a pro career that now spans 21 fights. He has 12 knockouts.
Duarte is 40-6-1 with 30 knockouts. But it would be more accurate to list two records here, since there are really two Frankie Duartes.
There was the fast-living, free-swinging Duarte, a man in his mid-20s who fought and partied his way to the No. 2 ranking among World Boxing Council bantamweights. That Duarte, who labeled himself a loser, crash-landed under the weight of a drinking and drug habit that left him a puffy, spent 138-pounder.
Then there is the Frankie Duarte who signed up with Ten Goose Boxing Club of North Hollywood 2 1/2 years ago, worked off 20 pounds and began to live his dreams.
Duarte, now 31, is 8-1-1 in the second half of his career after staying out of the ring for nearly five years, except for one outing in Hawaii in 1981 when he admittedly took a fight just for the money.
For a while Thursday night, it looked as if this story would have a sad ending for Duarte.
It was Duarte who blinked first after six furious rounds in which neither man backed up an inch or settled for a clinch.
Early in the seventh round, Duarte took a solid right hand from Salud and felt blood rolling down his face. He had suffered a cut above his right eyebrow. It wasn't serious enough to stop the fight, but Duarte didn't know that at the time.
"I saw the money and the belt slipping away," said Duarte, who weighed in at 118. "I knew I must have been ahead on all cards but I also knew I had to quit trying to land the big punch and go for flurries. I knew I had to get him out of there."
Duarte fought back with a strong right hand of his own that smashed repeatedly into the left side of Salud's face, beginning the attack that would soon close Salud's left eye.
After the ninth round, referee Marty Denkin walked over first to Duarte's corner, then Salud's. When he turned away from Salud to face the judges, he signaled that the fight was over.
In preliminary fights, Jerome Wilson, 106 3/4, of Los Angeles won a split decision over Sammy Espinosa, 109 3/4, of Riverside in a four-round flyweight bout; James Evans, 140 3/4, of Santa Paula won a slit decision over Miguel Miranda, 140 3/4, of Los Angeles in a four-round junior-welterweight fight, and Chris Calvin, 134, of Nashville scored his 20th knockout by stopping Sam Agokotey, 134 3/4, of Ghana at 1:02 of the ninth rough of their scheduled lightweight match, part of a Forum tournament. It was the fourth time in the fight that Agokotey had been down.
Following the Duarte-Salud fight, 1984 Olympic silver medalist Virgil Hill, 174, of North Dakota won a unanimous 10-round decision over Mike Sedillo, 172 1/2, of Chino in a 10-round light-heavyweight match.