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Duarte Evens the Score in a Bittersweet Victory

June 28, 1987|STEVE SPRINGER | Times Staff Writer

It should have been bantamweight Frankie Duarte's finest moment.

Ten years ago, he had been stopped in the fifth round by Albert Davila at the Olympic Auditorium, his career already skidding into a haze of alcohol and drugs.

Four months ago, Duarte lost a controversial decision to then-World Boxing Assn. bantamweight champion Bernardo Pinango, and Duarte's unlikely comeback seemed to be slipping away.

Yet here he was Saturday, sitting in the Forum Club, a soft drink in front of him, friends and family all around, a tape of his 10th-round TKO victory over Davila an hour earlier on a television screen above him.

In one memorable afternoon, Duarte had avenged the earlier loss to Davila and put himself back in position to avenge the title defeat as well. Forum boxing official John Jackson has pledged to put Duarte back in the Inglewood ring in another title fight as soon as possible.

So why wasn't there a smile on Duarte's battle-scarred face?

"I can't believe they gave me only three rounds," Duarte said softly to a reporter, referring to the judges' scorecards, all three of which had Davila ahead, 6-3, when the fight was stopped. "I fight my heart out. My eyes are shutting, but I'm still making him fight my fight. I was coming on strong.

"And still, I'm going to hear that I was lucky. I fight so hard, and still I've got to hear that crap. I'm not as happy as I could be."

A fan came up and asked for an autograph. After Duarte obliged, the fan shook his hand and said, "Thanks, champ."

Duarte smiled weakly.

"I've just got real mixed feelings," Duarte said. "I thought I was hitting Davila with pretty good shots. He'd try to steal a round with a good combination at the end, but I'd come right back with a good combo and he'd be retreating.

"Last time when I fought Pinango, I thought I'd won, but I didn't get the decision. I thought I won here, but other people don't think so."

The Times gave Duarte only two rounds.

"It was really two fights," Joe Goossen, Duarte's trainer, told his fighter as he sat nearby. "From the fifth round on, it was all yours. No way you'd have lost those last few rounds."

On the screen, the fight had just been stopped. The crowd in the Forum Club cheered wildly.

Except for Duarte. The thrill of victory had been tempered by the agony of debate.

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