Who's going to win the Roberto Duran-Sugar Ray Leonard welterweight title fight? Duran, if he presses, says Cus D'Amato, the boxing oracle who predicted Ali would become the first heavyweight to win the championship three times (SCORECARD, July 10, 1978). "If Duran stays on top of Leonard, he'll win," is the way D'Amato puts it. "But he can't stop and rest because that will give Leonard a chance to use his superb talents. If Duran doesn't press, Leonard will beat him. Duran has the ability to anticipate a punch, but Leonard throws three, four or five punches in a fast combination or rhythm, and he could stop Duran with the second, third or fourth one. Duran must press. Leonard doesn't fight when he's pressed. Also, when he's pinned on the ropes, he's constantly on defense. Leonard did not do well in his fight with Marcos Geraldo, and his camp tried to explain his poor performance by saying he had fought a middleweight. It wasn't that; it was the pressure Geraldo put on him. Pressure inhibits Leonard's performance."
What can Leonard do if Duran is ultra-aggressive? "Sidestep to negate the pressure," says D'Amato. Won't the skillful Leonard do that? "I doubt it," D'Amato says. "I've never seen him do it, and I have observed him a lot."
Peering into the future, D'Amato inclines toward Ali should his fight with Larry Holmes ever come off. "It all depends on Ali's attitude," Cus says. "Holmes can be intimidated. In the finals of the Olympic boxing trials at West Point in 1972, Holmes quit right in the middle of the third round. Something like this doesn't stay with all people, but I think it has with him. Holmes used to spar with Ali, and he had to be affected by Ali's personality. Ali doesn't beat opponents because he's much better, but because he's been able to psych them out. That's why he never liked to fight guys who didn't understand English. If Ali can become motivated and project his attitude of inevitable force, Holmes will be receptive to Ali's mental powers."
Now in their 12th season, the San Diego Padres have developed few top-notch players from their early draft choices, and their selection of Jeff Pyburn, University of Georgia outfielder and quarterback, as their first-round pick this year has upset fans. Padre GM Bob Fontaine passed over two highly rated local outfielders, who went in the first round, to make Pyburn the fifth player selected in the draft. "A lot of teams shied away from Jeff because they thought he would go into pro football," Fontaine says, "but he had indicated to us that he preferred to play baseball. [Pyburn's father, Jim, is a former Oriole outfielder.] Jeff has as much as or more power than Dave Winfield, and Jeff is the player we were hoping to get in the first round."
However, according to the Major League Scouting Bureau, Pyburn is muscle-bound as a result of lifting weights for football and will have trouble hitting major league fastballs. The bureau also called him a below-average outfielder and listed him as "NP," no prospect, though he hit .400 at Georgia, set school records for homers and RBIs and has 6.4 speed in the 60.
Fontaine, who signed Pyburn for an estimated $100,000, watched him make his pro debut for Class A Reno last week. Pyburn singled in two at bats and drove in the winning run. That gave Fontaine cause for cheer; he may rise or fall on Pyburn's performance. So might someone in the scouting bureau.
FRIDAY THE 13TH
Superstitions abound in baseball. Some players refuse to change an article of clothing during a streak, others erase the white lines delineating the batter's box, avoid stepping on the foul lines or make sure they touch second base on the way to the outfield. Some scan the stands for red-haired women for good luck. Some refuse to hold a baseball during the playing of the national anthem.
Superstitious minds should have been reeling last Friday the 13th when six of the 10 players who wear the number 13 took the field. How did they fare? Well. Dave Revering of Oakland had a mostly good day, getting an RBI single and a walk and scoring a run against Ron Guidry of the Yankees in the A's 4-3 win in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second-game loss, Revering pinch-hit and struck out. "I'm not at all superstitious," he says. "Maybe just a little contrary. Just going against the grain, something like that." For the Yankees. Centerfielder Bobby Brown, who had requested the number 13 for his first season as a full-time major-leaguer, broke out of a slump in the ninth inning of the opener by hitting his seventh homer of the year and then had a single in the nightcap.
Catcher Lance Parrish of Detroit has worn number 13 since Little League. "They just gave it to me," he says. "It's just a number to me." On the 13th, Parrish, the Tigers' DH, hit an RBI double in four times at bat in an 8-4 victory over the White Sox. Harry Chappas, number 13 for the White Sox, pinch-hit and flied out to right.
Third Baseman Roy Howell of Toronto has worn 13 since he started in pro ball. "I enjoy wearing the number," he says. "I like to do the opposite of what other people do just to see what happens." What happened to Howell? He went hitless in four plate appearances as Toronto lost 6-3 to Texas. Derryl Cousins, the only American League umpire who is designated as number 13, called the balls and strikes. When he flew to Toronto to do the game, the airline lost his luggage for a couple of hours.
Shortstop Dave Concepcion, number 13 for the Reds, went hitless in four at bats in Cincinnati's 5-2 victory over the Cardinals. He also went errorless. Concepcion points out that on the last Friday the 13th that he played, in August of 1976, he went 4 for 4 with two home runs against the Mets. "I broke my leg in 1973 sliding, but it was on July 22," he says. "If 13 was such bad luck, then why didn't I break my leg on the 13th? I feel being superstitious about the 13th is stupid. It's stupid not to have a 13th floor in hotels. Why don't we just forget 13 altogether? In everything. People in Venezuela [Concepcion's birthplace] are superstitious about 13, too. But it looks good on me, and it looked good on Wilt Chamberlain, right?" Concepcion should know. He's been in professional baseball a long time. How long? Why, 13 seasons.
When we last looked in on the vaudeville act known as the Miami Beach Boxing Commission (SCORECARD, May 12), Dan Roth, the chairman, was refusing to investigate charges by welterweight Kenneth Harper that Manager Emmet Sullivan changed Harper's name, altered his amateur record from 4-5 to 13-2, and then told him to lose to opponent Rocky Scarfone if he wanted to get paid. Harper says he spurned the alleged order to take a dive, but he wound up a bizarre loser by a TKO when the ring physician, Robert LaVey, was called in by Referee Eddie Eckert after the second round to examine the battered Scarfone, who had suffered a broken nose and a cut mouth and whose face was covered with blood. Instead of examining Scarfone, LaVey looked at Harper, found two chipped lower teeth, and Scarfone was declared the winner.
In the uproar that followed, the Miami Beach commission finally decided to investigate, and the two hearings held have only served to confirm the fact that the Miami Beach boxing scene is a disgrace. The first hearing was held a month ago; it lasted two hours and was filled with insults and shouting matches. Harper testified and repeated his story, but the septuagenarian Sullivan, a cantankerous cigar chewer, first refused to take an oath, talk into a tape recorder or answer questions. He also told Miami News reporter Tom Archdeacon he could make it hard on him. After Sullivan finally settled down and agreed to testify, a spectator suddenly said he remembered Sullivan from the old days in Scranton, Pa. and that Sullivan had been in trouble there, too. Sullivan became angry. The five commissioners, all but one over 70, tried to calm him down, but Sullivan got into an exchange with Ed Lassman, a commissioner who owns Wolfie's 21 Restaurant and is a member of the WBA's rating and executive committees. Sullivan called Lassman "a bum" and said, "Lassman, Lassman, he don't know nothin'. Hell, he don't even know the war is over yet."
Lassman asked that Sullivan be suspended for 90 days for unbecoming conduct, and two commissioners supported him. Another commissioner, Lou Gold, voted against the suspension, and chairman Roth passed, as he usually does when the vote comes his way. Sullivan stormed out of the hearing chewing his cigar and swearing, and the normally quiet Lassman eventually dozed off. After listening to the commissioners argue among themselves and conduct the hearing without any parliamentary procedure whatever, Miami Beach City Commissioner Mel Mendelson arose to tell them, "I voted for some of your appointments. I can look stupid all by myself; I don't need any help from the people I voted for. I'm tired of explaining all your bickerings to people on the street. Gentlemen, I should hope you get your act together. Real soon."
A fortnight ago the vaudeville act got together again, this time to hear Dr. LaVey and referee Eckert testify. Two city commissioners also showed up to see if the boxing commissioners had changed their ways. Halfway through the hearing, one of the city commissioners dozed off. LaVey testified that the referee had called him into the ring to look at Scarfone. As he was crawling into the ring, Sullivan asked him to check out Harper's mouth. "I looked into the kid's mouth and there was a bit of bleeding," LaVey said. "His middle lower incisors had been chipped. The kid told me, 'I got enough, I don't want no more.' " Harper, who wasn't asked to attend this hearing, had previously testified that he had said nothing to the doctor. Another conflict in testimony arose when LaVey said he thought it was Sullivan who then asked the ref to stop the fight. Previously, Sullivan had testified that he thought the doctor had asked the ref to stop the fight.
When the hearing was over, chairman Roth refused to take any action. "If the fighter wants to take it through the legal processes to the state attorney's office, he can," said Roth. "We'll give them our minutes." Commissioner Marty Cohen argued that it was the duty of the commission to ascertain the facts and decide what should be done, but he got no support. If there was a bright spot in the hearing, it came when Gold proposed that the commission give chairman Roth a vote of confidence. Instead of a motion to second, there was only silence.
WHITHER THE WEIGHTLIFTERS?
Amid all the turmoil in Iran, no one knows—and few seem to care—what's happened to the weightlifters. No Iranian has competed in international events since the revolution. Weightlifting was a big sport in Iran, and successful lifters were much favored by the Shah, who started reading Bob Hoffman's Strength & Health magazine when he was 10 years old. According to Hoffman, in 1953 weightlifters armed with iron bars and knives led a mob of 10,000 that helped induce Premier Mohammed Mossadegh to flee and the Shah to regain the Peacock Throne.
Although Iran has no recent international champions—little Mohammed Nassiri, who won the world flyweight championship in 1973 and set two records in his class, was getting a bit long in the tooth—the country has always had world-class competitors. John Terpak, the former U.S. national coach and now the general manager of Hoffman's York (Pa.) Barbell Company, says the only Iranian who showed up at the 1979 world championship in Salonika was a reporter. When Terpak asked how the weight-lifters, including Nassiri, were doing back home, the reporter cautiously allowed they were all "fine."
WIN, PLACE & CHARGE IT
It's called COMCHECK, and it's a handy—some say too handy—service for tapped-out bettors at casinos, dog tracks and frontons. Say you need $200 to invest in a couple of sure things coming up and you aren't among the favored few who enjoy check-cashing privileges at such establishments. Simply go to a special window, place a toll-free call and recite your Visa or MasterCard number. After a brief wait while a credit check is run on your card, you sign a bank draft, a cashier hands you two crisp $100 bills and you're back in action.
COMCHECK, which is operated by Nashville-based Comdata Network, Inc has had windows at truck stops for a decade and at casinos for two years. The ser vice was introduced last summer at greyhound tracks in Arkansas and Arizona, among other locations, and has recently caught on in Florida, where it is available at seven frontons and two greyhound tracks. Two horse-racing tracks, Gulfstream Park and Hialeah, are considering introducing COMCHECK to increase betting handles. "Did you ever turn a woman loose in a department store with a credit card?" says Hialeah General Manager Edward McKinsey. "It's an inducement. You think, 'What the heck, I didn't bring a check with me, so now at least I can bet my MasterCard or Visa.' "
Comdata generally allows customers to draw up to $1,500 over a two-week period at casinos and up to $500 at pari-mutuel establishments. Service charges, which are comparable to those for Western Union money transfers, are stiff but are reduced proportionately as the size of a transaction increases; e.g., there is a prohibitive $7.25 charge for obtaining $25 and a somewhat more reasonable charge of $20 for getting $500.
Anselmo Alliegro, the jai alai supervisor for Florida's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, notes that COMCHECK is proving particularly popular with guilt-ridden husbands. "They're using it just after the last game," he says, "so their wives won't get on their butt when they come home with no money." But less enthusiastic observers fear that COMCHECK will encourage weak-willed bettors to splurge. "Credit shouldn't be allowed where there's gambling," says Arnie Wexler, vice-president of the New York-based National Council on Compulsive Gambling. "It just gets compulsive gamblers in deeper trouble."
THEY SAID IT
•Michel Lourie, French national sprint coach, asked why his country hasn't been able to produce great track and field teams the way it produces great wines: "Perhaps it is precisely because of our great wines that we have not had great track teams."