LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Julio Cesar Chavez recalls only one thing about the February day 16 years ago when he first stepped into the ring as a professional fighter.

It wasn't the successful debut he made by knocking out Andres Felix in the sixth round in his hometown of Culiacan, Mexico. It was getting stiffed by the fight's promoter, a rude welcoming for the fighter who would become perhaps Mexico's greatest champion.

``I still remember I didn't get paid,'' Chavez said. ``I was supposed to get 1,500 pesos _ about $100 _ but they never paid me.''

Chavez, of course, still has his problems with promoters, namely Don King. But with some $10 million on the line for two fights beginning Friday night, he's not too worried about not getting what he's due.

Chavez will be fighting Scott ``Pink Cat'' Walker while Oscar De La Hoya will meet Darryl Tyson in tuneup fights before Chavez and De La Hoya meet in a June 7 megafight promoted by King's rival, Bob Arum.

``Don King helped me a lot in my career, but unfortunately everything has to end,'' Chavez said. ``Mr. Arum has offered me a very good contract and is treating me very well.''

Chavez will make only about $675,000 in a scheduled 10-round, non-title fight against Walker at Caesars Palace. But if he and De La Hoya both win, they are guaranteed at least $9 million each to meet June 7 at the same Las Vegas resort.

``This fight will break all the records,'' Chavez said of the De La Hoya bout.

First, though, he must beat Walker, whose main claim to fame other than his long pink boxing trunks was a win last year over an aged Alexis Arguello in Arguello's first fight of an aborted comeback attempt.

``I've seen a lot of women in pink, but never an opponent,'' said Chavez, clearly amused with the idea.

Chavez, a 16-1 favorite, doesn't appear to be taking his first fight since a Sept. 16 decision win over David Kamau too seriously.

Battling a cold, he will come into the scheduled 10-round fight at about the contract limit of 144 pounds. His 140-pound WBC super lightweight title will not be at stake.

``If I had fought more often recently, this kid wouldn't last more than 3-4 rounds,'' Chavez said. ``But I think it's going to be a long fight. The kid moves a lot and he's difficult. Plus he's real tall.''

Chavez had a choice of fighting either Walker or Darryl Tyson for his tuneup bout. He picked Walker because he is tall, like De La Hoya, and should make him work hard by giving him a lot of movement in the bout.

Walker, who has 12 knockouts and a 21-3-1 career mark, vowed at Wednesday's prefight press conference to make people take him seriously, something of a problem for a gangly fighter whose slicked-back 1950s hairdo and long pink trunks tend to draw snickers from fight fans.

Even Arum wasn't sure about his nickname, introducing him as the ``Pink Panther.''

``It's `Pink Cat.' They wouldn't let me use Pink Panther,'' Walker said.

``After the fight he'll probably be a purple cat,'' Chavez said.

Chavez will top the card, fighting immediately after De La Hoya makes his 140-pound debut against Tyson. The fights will be televised by Home Box Office.

De La Hoya is a 25-1 favorite against Tyson, a light-hitting journeyman with a 47-8-1 record who has lost two of his last five fights.

``He's not the strongest boxer out there, that's for sure,'' De La Hoya said. ``But he's not going to be a runner. He tries, and that's why he's a warrior. His chance is in the first few rounds.''