Rocky Coleman, an aging ex-pug who has defied suburban zoning authorities by letting prizefighters spar in his back-yard boxing ring, has staved off possible contempt-of-court sanctions with a move that could leave the ring in place for months to come.

Coleman, 64, who was a journeyman club fighter in New York before becoming a trainer in the early 1950s, has angered his next-door neighbor and local officials by setting up an outdoor boxing gym behind his rented house in the Prince George's County community of Cheverly.

Although most of the gym is legal -- the heavy bags, the speed bags, the mirrored wall, the workout platform -- officials say the ring, when used for boxing, violates the county's zoning code.

Coleman signed a court-approved agreement in 1987 promising not to put boxers in the ring. But he concedes he began violating the pact shortly after he put his name to it. Yesterday, an attorney for the county had planned to ask a District Court judge to find him in contempt, which could have resulted in a jail term of up to 60 days and a $1,000 fine. "But I got a reprieve," Coleman said.

His attorney pointed out to Judge Thurman Rhodes that Coleman recently filed an application for a special zoning exception, under which the ring could be used for boxing. Rhodes delayed the contempt hearing until zoning authorities act on the application.

That could take months, officials said.

Although Cheverly authorities have complained about the county moving too slowly against Coleman, Assistant County Attorney Ann Magner did not object to Rhodes's decision. "The court normally defers to the administrative process," she said. "It's a routine practice."

Cheverly Town Administrator David Warrington had no comment, and Coleman's next-door neighbor Helen Adams could not be reached.