When everyone was finally in the ring, Duva played some music—he still doesn't know what it was—that he identified to the audience as the national anthem of Zaire. The bell rang, and Elliott knocked the prince out with one punch. "People left the arena saying. 'What a great fight!' " says Duva, still as proud of that match as of any he has made for the big casinos and their TV pit bosses.
The Duvas might never have made it out of the world of upwardly mobile garbagemen and off-duty cops if they hadn't won the promotional rights to the Leonard-Hearns bout in 1981, thereby delivering a stunning blow to Arum and King, who had seized virtual control of boxing. "The only people the networks would talk to were King and Arum," says Kathy. "Before that fight we couldn't get them to return our calls."
Duva got $13 million in financing by shrewdly forging an alliance with rock promoter Shelly Finkel, who got involved only after people who knew the fight business vouched for Duva's honesty, a scarce quality in boxing. "Scarce would be an improvement," says Finkel. "It's a rough sport, and there are very few honorable people in it. The people who control the limited quantity of champions want to keep it that way."
The Leonard-Hearns fight made $34 million from the live gate and closed-circuit locations. At the time no other sporting event in history had grossed as much money. "The month before that fight and the month after it, we promoted shows at Ice World for $20,000," says Kathy.
That first triumph was also one of the last Duva shared with his wife. Enes had been bedridden with multiple sclerosis for six years. Duva took her to see specialists at the Mayo and the Scripps clinics. He took her to any hospital that held out any hope of a cure. When it became clear that conventional medicine could not help her, he flew her to Miami for snake-venom treatments. "He spent every penny he had, taking her to see every doctor who supposedly had a cure for MS," says Dan. Enes died 2� years ago. "She never deserved to be sick," says Duva, "and she never deserved to die."
When Enes died, Duva was already reeling from the loss of his first superb fighter, the one he says came closest to being like another son to him. Tony Ayala was undefeated and the top-ranked junior middleweight contender in the world when he was arrested for rape on Jan. 1, 1984. "He was my father's dream fighter," says Dan. "He was tough and mean, and he would do anything to win." Ayala was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and is serving a 35-year term in Trenton State Prison, in New Jersey.
"He always believes in the fighter," says Donna of her father. "The fighter can do no wrong. After Tony got arrested, he lived at our house for three weeks, with my daughter and me and my mother, who was bedridden at the time." Not until after the trial did Duva accept that Ayala had been lying to him all along.
"That's what really hurt." says Duva. "I thought this kid was my son. I wanted to be part of his life. This was a kid I was going to do something for."
Duva has handled more than a dozen boxers who have been arrested or done time, but the Ayala episode was unusually painful. Duva hasn't spoken to Ayala since his conviction, and the family stopped inviting fighters to Sunday dinner. "After that we kept our distance." says Kathy.
Keeping their distance has helped the Duvas to run Main Events more like a business and to soften the blows they take from rivals about apparent conflicts of interest in both promoting boxing shows and managing fighters. When Main Events is promoting a bout. Duva will often be negotiating on behalf of his fighter with Dan. But Duva insists that all his boxers have attorneys and accountants, so, he says, there is no impropriety in his dealings with his son.