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BOXING / EARL GUSTKEY : This Champion Hopes to Avoid Forum Jinx

May 18, 1991|EARL GUSTKEY

Until recently, the Forum boxing staff made a big deal over the frequency of its championship fights--more title fights more often than any other fight venue in the world is its claim.

At one point, the Forum had staged nine monthly title fights in a row. But beginning last October, the Forum, having crowned so many champions, began burying them.

This isn't what Jerry Buss had in mind in 1982, when he began the boxing program. What he wanted the Forum to be was boxing's house of champions. What he has is boxing's graveyard of champions.

These days, when the Forum announces a title fight, staffers run for the bomb shelter.

Since last October, four champions have been dethroned there. Nevertheless, on Monday night, yet another titlist will bravely glove up and prepare to ward off the Forum jinx. Bantamweight champion Greg Richardson of Youngstown, Ohio, will fight Mexican Victor Rabanales in Richardson's first championship defense.

In winning the title, Richardson toppled a Forum meal ticket, Raul Perez of Tijuana. Until he met Richardson last February, Perez, 25, was one of boxing's more dominant champions. But in a shocker, Perez was out-pointed over 12 rounds by the 33-year-old Richardson.

The upsets started last October, when Pedro Decima knocked out Paul Banke and took Banke's super-bantamweight championship.

In December, in probably the biggest upset, little-known Rolando Pascua of the Philippines knocked out the unbeaten Mexican light-flyweight champion, Humberto Gonzalez.

The next day, Pascua was invited to lunch at the Philippine consulate in Los Angeles, and when he returned to Manila, they had a parade for him.

But just a month later, Pascua was beaten by Melchor Cob Castro.

That's four champions beaten in five months at the same arena.

Representatives of Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson seem to be talking about a fall fight in Las Vegas, but that's all that's clear now about the long-awaited matchup of the two heavyweights.

They have no date, no venue and no contract to fight, but one large obstacle seemed to have been cleared this week.

When it was announced that Razor Ruddock had agreed to withdraw from his June 28 rematch with Tyson at the Mirage, it seemed to open the way for serious negotiations.

But it was learned Friday that Tyson promoter Don King and Mirage president Steve Wynn were working in Las Vegas to put Tyson-Ruddock back together. Further, it was learned that Murad Muhammad, Ruddock's promoter, has retained a Las Vegas lawyer to handle an appeal of his recent one-year suspension and $25,000 fine by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

And it also has been said that Ruddock pulled out of the fight, not to allow Tyson to go directly to a Holyfield fight, but because of the Nevada commission's action against Muhammad. Ruddock's promoter was punished for his part in a ring melee after the first Tyson-Ruddock fight. Muhammad was caught by TV cameras kicking Tyson's trainer, Richie Giachetti, while he was on the floor.

In the meantime, warring camps in the heavyweight picture sat down for a peace conference this week. At a cable television convention in Orlando, Fla., King, Holyfield adviser Shelly Finkel and TVKO pay-per-view chief Seth Abraham exchanged olive branches over coffee and began, finally, to talk instead of exchange insults.

"Shelly and Seth extended their hands to Don, they sat down over coffee and that's what started it," said Al Braverman, King's longtime aide. "Those two had been on the outs with Don a long time, but they had three good days of talks in Orlando and they'll talk again in New York Monday or Tuesday."

In the meantime, King is in Las Vegas, either trying to put Tyson-Ruddock II back together or, failing that, to hold together the rest of the Mirage's June 28 card.

If Tyson-Ruddock II is gone, the main event is Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Harold Brazier. On the supporting card, unbeaten heavyweight Riddick Bowe meets Rodolfo Marin, and Australian featherweight Jeff Fenech makes his U.S. debut against Azumah Nelson.

Angelo Dundee insists his man was in shape, but it looked as if Michael Nunn simply wasn't well conditioned when he was stopped in the 11th round last Friday by an inferior opponent, James Toney.

Once among the best-conditioned athletes in boxing, when he was trained by Joe Goossen, Nunn looked as if he had run out of gas against the awkward, plodding Toney, who would have been a decided underdog against all of Nunn's victims in five previous defenses of his middleweight championship.

Tripping over Toney will prove to be an expensive defeat for Nunn. Lost, at least for the foreseeable future, are the millions he stood to earn in a matchup of undefeated champions, Nunn and Virgil Hill, the light-heavyweight champion.

Nunn's former manager, Dan Goossen, stiffed by Nunn a year ago when he broke away from Ten Goose Boxing, said Nunn's defeat saddened him.

"I hated to see it," Goossen said. "Anytime you see a fighter with that kind of talent flat on his back, it's not pretty."

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