LAS VEGAS — Frankie Randall emerged from a stint in jail, from boxing obscurity, from three decades of difficult life to knock down and defeat Julio Cesar Chavez three months ago, and what did it earn him?
Deja Julio . Another fight against Chavez, another purse share smaller than Chavez's--$1 million vs. Chavez's $1.5 million--another round of questions about why he thinks he can beat Chavez, another opportunity to prove himself against somebody he has already defeated.
For the record:
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 7, 1994 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 4 Column 4 Sports Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in Friday's editions on Randall included several inaccuracies. Randall has a 49-2-1 record. He was 22-0 before losing to Edwin Rosario in 1985, and he did not lose to Fred Pendleton on July 4, 1986. That fight was a 12-round draw.
"It's like the first fight never happened, like it's a nightmare to everybody," an obviously frustrated Randall said Thursday, two days before Saturday's rematch at the MGM Grand. "They all want to forget it."
Knowing that many of the hotel's and Don King's hopes lie in Chavez's regaining his World Boxing Council super-lightweight title--and fulfilling the rest of his contract with the hotel--Randall has been tense and restless, and the continuous push and pull of autograph seekers, interview requests and other commitments have done nothing to settle him.
For any fighter, it can all be overwhelming. For a man as emotional as Randall, who waited as long as he did to get even one title shot, the last few days have been close to oppressive.
He sat through more than a hour of television interviews Wednesday, patiently and pleasantly by promoter
King's side, but then quickly left the room in a near jog, mumbling about people "still riding Chavez's coattails."
"I'm so pumped up, I'm knotted," Randall said. "I'm ready to let some of this go."
All Randall (49-2 with 39 knockouts) says he wants to do is quiet the Chavez crowd once and for all and be recognized not only as the man who beat Chavez, but as a talented fighter in his prime.
All he sees everybody else doing is root for Chavez to end his brief reign, and all he hears is Chavez saying that the defeat was caused by his own poor training and lack of desire, not Randall's talents.
"I understand why it's happening," Randall said. "The man's a legend in his own time. I'm not trying to take away anything from him. But I'm a champion also. They've got to recognize me a little bit and bring me around.
"What if I go ahead and lose the title? Then I'm written off to be just another opponent. I wasn't just another opponent. I beat all the odds and beat the man who wasn't supposed to get beat.
"The man's a great champion, but the best fall. And when the best fall, the people usually grasp onto the new champion. But now it's still Chavez, Chavez, Chavez. . . .
"I think they are (fixated on him). He's done well for Don, but I'm the champ."
About a month after beating Chavez, Randall got married--but then immediately had to deal with the death of his father, Wallace Randall II. Randall, who says he is his family's sole provider, has yet to have a honeymoon.
"A lot of things had been piling on," Randall said. "Fortunately, I've come to grips with it all."
For Randall, it was another dance with hardship and loss in a lifetime of both. He had a sterling amateur career--he was a five-time Golden Gloves champion--but missed the 1980 Moscow Olympics, along with the rest of the America's best amateurs, because of the U.S. boycott.
Randall, 32, from Morristown, Tenn., turned professional in 1983 but always seemed to fall just short of contending for a title. He was 28-0 before losing a decision to Freddie Pendleton, who went on to the lightweight title. The next year, Randall was knocked out in the second round by Primo Ramos.
Then Randall missed two years after he had been convicted on a drug charge. He was released in 1990 after serving 17 months.
Eight fights and three years later, he was standing over a fallen Chavez, 31.
"I knew I was a good fighter; I just needed the opportunity," Randall said.
Before he could enjoy the title, though, or even consider fighting anybody else, the contract with King pushed him into this immediate rematch.
At times recently, Randall has looked like a nervous fighter caught in the glare of oncoming headlines. He missed at least four news conferences during the nationwide tour to promote the rematch.
"What he's feeling is the focus of being the champion," said his trainer, Aaron Snowell. "The first time, he could stay focused. He didn't need to use up a lot of his energy answering questions or doing any of that.
"He wants to treat this one like the last time, stay concentrated, because he knows he has a hard task in front of him.
"What I've tried to do is bring about an understanding, a knowledge of it. If you have that, it relaxes you. When you don't understand why everything is happening so fast, it becomes confusing."
Randall says the months have gone by quickly since he won the title, and his wide smile when he speaks of it tells everyone how much he is looking forward to his planned honeymoon in St. Thomas after this fight.
Did he consider fighting anybody else in his first title defense?
"You and I both know I didn't have a chance to take another fight," Randall said. "Anyway, why fight Joe Blow and get a cut in the ninth round and maybe lose my title?"
Randall, perhaps sarcastically, perhaps not, repeatedly has said that even if he beats Chavez, he might have to fight him again.
"It's a little difficult," he said. "I have to beat him twice in the manner that I beat him (before). I took the guy to school. He wasn't able to handle the things I did to him. Nobody has. I put him down. I've put a lot of them down."
Randall also chafes at any suggestion--particularly when made by Pernell Whitaker--that Whitaker's clinical dissection of Chavez in their infamous draw last September gave Randall the game plan to defeat Chavez.
"Pernell Whitaker is getting involved with something he shouldn't be involved with," said Randall, who points out that Whitaker's being left-handed makes it a totally different fight. "Give me the break I deserve.
"I'm still trying to gain what I just won."