Seven champions kept their crowns in a bang-up week, proving only that boxing's biggest problem may be a short supply of worthy contenders
September 25, 1977

In Los Angeles they called it The Night of the Champions, the show featuring, as it did, WBC featherweight titleholder Danny (Little Red) Lopez and WBC welterweight champ Carlos Palomino, backed by three Olympic medalists. The promoters were slightly less pretentious in Las Vegas, settling for A Night with the Heavyweights. Indeed, they served up 2,193 pounds worth, making up in quantity what was lacking in quality, for the card was essentially an opportunity for Kenny Norton and Jimmy Young to break a sweat against less than celebrated opponents.

At the other five stopovers in a whirling, eight-day dervish of mostly-TV network boxing, the main events were more simply billed as world championship fights. There was angry Roberto Duran in Philadelphia; hulking Victor Galindez in Rome; slow and clumsy Eddie Gazo in Tokyo; crafty Alfredo Escalera in San Juan; and little Miguel Canto, the master of defense, in Mérida, Mexico—all champions when they entered the ring, ditto when they left.

The fistic orgy began on Sept. 10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Escalera, the WBC junior lightweight champion, won a dull bout from Sigfredo Rodriguez, a pacifist who saved most of his roadwork for the fight. And the week was climaxed last Saturday in Philadelphia and Rome with a pair of title bouts. In the Spectrum, Duran, the ever-angry slugger, protected his lightweight title in a points victory over boxer Edwin Viruet; in the Sports Palace, Galindez, also a wicked banger, retained his light-heavyweight title in a close and unpopular decision over Alvaro Lopez, a rangy boxer from Stockton, Calif. with a popping jab, a hard chin and a lot of cutes. In all three fights, brute strength won over the manly art.

In too many cases the bouts were a study in tedium, and mostly you can blame the, ah, opponents. As Gil Clancy, the fight manager who also makes the matches for CBS, said, "There is a terrible shortage of boxing talent in the world, and the way TV is chewing that up, there won't be very many good matches left." Maybe so. One still unchewed-up youngster is Howard Davis. As a participant in The Night of the Champions, Davis destroyed tough Tury Pineda in four rounds. Two other ex-Olympians also streaked on unbeaten, Michael Spinks with a one-round knockout of Ray Elson, big John Tate with a split decision over Eddie (the Animal) Lopez.

Next night in Las Vegas, Norton demolished Lorenzo Zanon and Young beat Jody Ballard by way of tuning up to fight each other Nov. 5. Beyond these workouts, the best that can be said of the Nevada fights is that it was a payday. Undefeated Larry Holmes stopped Fred (Young Sanford) Houpe in seven, and Ron Lyle took a split decision from Stan Ward.

Fighting in non-TV obscurity—only two of the seven title bouts were not televised—WBA Junior Middleweight Champ Gazo plodded to a decision over Kenji Shibata, and Canto retained his WBC flyweight crown with a decision over Martin Vargas of Chile.

A few rounds after Galindez started bludgeoning Lopez, Duran and Viruet began their rematch, and while Duran was the victor, Viruet at least exacted a measure of revenge for his mother.

"After the last one," Viruet said, "he called my mother dirty names. I told him I'd make him pay."

In the 12th round Viruet opened a small cut over Duran's left eye. Then he stepped back, waved a glove at the gash and said, "That is for my mother."

Two rounds later Viruet was penalized a point for trying to lace the cut. No matter. Duran didn't need any help. The Panamanian won and then said, "I'm not embarrassed at not knocking him out. I just wanted to keep my title."

By week's end, that was about all the champs had done.

PHOTOJAMES DRAKE"Duran doesn't scare me," said Viruet (left), but he, didn't throw enough hard left hands like this. If unspooked, he also was unsuccessful. PHOTOJAMES DRAKEFeatherweight champ Danny Lopez (left) was knocked down in the second, but unloosed his guns to knock out Jose Torres in the seventh. PHOTOJAMES DRAKEPuzzled by Everaldo Azevedo's hit-and-run tactics, welterweight champ Carlos Palomino came on at the end to win a close decision. PHOTOJAMES DRAKEUndefeated Larry Holmes had it easy with Fred Houpe. When weary of punching, he patted and pushed. PHOTOJAMES DRAKERon Lyle's scowl didn't psych out Stan Ward, who has a degree in psychology. Still the old pro won the decision. PHOTOJAMES DRAKEHeavyweight contender Jimmy Young stepped on the gas after a slow start to outslick and outpunch Jody Ballard.
TWO PHOTOSJAMES DRAKEWhen Ken Norton finally got it together, he dropped Lorenzo Zanon twice. It was an effort that gave him a lift.