Muhammad Ali announced yesterday that he was paying for $200,000 worth of tickets for his heavyweight title defense tonight against Alfredo Evangelista at the Capital Centre and would give them away. About 150 of the tickets, Ali said, would go to Amy Carter for distribution at Stevens School.
The gesture by Ali was interpreted by some as an indication that the fight was nowhere near a sellout, even with another championship bout on the card, between junior lightweight titleholder ALfredo Escalera and Carlos Becerril, and a telecast blackout in Washington and Baltimore.
Ali and Jimmy Young drew 12,472 here on April 30, 1976, in a bout that also was blacked out.
The Ali-Evangelista bout, one of six on the Capital Centre card, is expected to begin about 10:15 p.m. It will be broadcast on WMAL-AM-630. Booker Griffin, who is associated with tonight's promotion, said the tickets ALi is buying will be distributed to boys clubs, welfare rights organizations and "some politicians."
Griffin said that arrangements had not yet been completed for distributing the tickets and advised those who might be eligible to listen to radio stations WHUR and WOL here and WWIN in Baltimore for further information.
"That still leaves me $2,550,000 (from his guaranteed purse of $2,750,000), said Ali of his donation. "I may never fight again in Washington," a reference to his intention to retire after a couple more bouts.
The champion insinuated he knew the advance sale was something short of sensational when he said of his opponent, ranked No. 10 contender by the World Boxing Council, "I'll bet you my life and everything I have that Evangelista will go longer with me than Duane Bobick did with Ken Norton. (Norton stopped Bobick after 58 seconds of the first round Wednesday night).
"It is the same as when I fought Jimmy Young here. Everybody said, 'Who is Jimmy Young? . . . who is Jimmy Young?' Now, yesterday (Saturday) people shouted, 'Jimmy Young beat you.' They said, 'Who is Ken Norton?' before I fought him the first time."
Norton decisioned Ali, broke his jaw, and was barely outpointed in their next two bouts.
Others involved in the promotion are saying that it was overpriced with tickets scaled from $150 down to $100, $75, $50, and $20.
The show also was affected by rumors that it might not go on because of ABC's concern over recent allegations of scandals in the U.S. Boxing Championships tournament it funded, doubts about Evangelista's qualifications, and a rumor that he had cataracts on his eyes prior to a special examination here.
For the Norton-Bobick bout, Madison Square Garden tickets were scaled at $50, $30, $20 adn $10. Norton was paid $500,000 and Bobick $300,000. New York City was not blacked out, but the bout still drew 9,726 and a live gate of $254,536.
In its admitted bid for high ratings, NBC paid the Garden $1.25 million to telecast in the New York City area, and the Garden made about $325,000 on the nontitle bout.
The Capital Centre show has much to offer besides an international heavyweight championship bout.
Ali advised his audience at yesterday's weigh-in, at which he scaled 221 1/4 and Evangelista 209 1/2, "Please don't underestimate Evangelista. I'm glad you think you can. I can't."
Evangelista said through Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, who speaks Spanish, "I am very happy that Ali recognizes me as a good fighter. He'll know I'm a good fighter Monday night."
Ali is 35 years old, Evangelista 22.
The challenger, a native of Uruguay who recently became a naturalized Spaniard, has won 13 of 15 bouts, 11 by knockouts.
He lost in February by decision to Lorenzo Zanon. Evangelista previously knocked out in four rounds Lucien Rodirguez, who won the European title a week ago by beating Jean Pierre Coopman, an easy victim of Ali's. Evangelista knocked out in three rounds Rudi Lubbers, another Ali victim.
Evangelista's purse will be $85,000.
Ali has won 53 of 55 bouts, 37 by knockouts. He was awarded a disputed decision over Norton in his last bout, in September. His two losses were by decisions, to Joe Frazier and Norton.
Also on tonight's car is junior lightweight champion Escalera (37-6-2), last seen defending his title against Ronnie McGarvey of Adelphi, Md., with a six-round knockout on the George Foreman-Jimmy Young card in Puerto Rico, on March 17.
Escalera's opponent tonight over 15 rounds, Becerril of Puerto Rico, fights out of Pomona, Calif., and has a 23-2 record. He is reputed to be a heavy puncher with 18 knockout victories.
Lightweight champion Roberto Duran of Panama, (57-1), who has won 47 bouts by knockouts, will be a solid favorite over Javier Kuniz of Los Angeles (18-5-2) in a 10-round nontitle bout.
Duran lost his only bout in a nontitle fight, to Estaban de Jesus, but etched the score later in a championship bout.
Representatives of the fighters met with the Maryland State Athletic Commission at Capital Centre after the weigh-ins
Barney Shankman of Washington, international counsel for the World Boxing Association, and Jose Sulaiman, head of the World Boxing Council, sat in on the meeting because of the international aspects of the bout.
Maryland uses the five-point-must scoring system, which means the winner of a round must be credited with five points, the loser according to his performance. If a round is adjudged even, both get five points. If in the championship bouts the scoring amounts to a draw the champion retains his title.
Maryland has a mandatory eight-count after a knockdown but no regulation that automatically ends a bout if a fighter is knocked down three times in the same round. Only the referee or commission physician may stop a bout.
Dundee, Ali's trainer, noting that Evangelista has trunks that have an extremely wide waist band and reach almost to the knees, asked for a ruling on how high they could be worn. It was pointed out that boxers such as Jack Sharkey and Archie Moore wore them high.
The idea was that if an opponent punched anywhere below the top of the waistband the victim could claim a foul. It was agreed that waistbands must not be worn above the navel level.
Eddie Mafuz, Evangelista's trainer, asked if his boxer might drink orange juice between rounds, but was refused, the commission said, because of the inability of the officials to determine whether stimulants were added.
Harry Kabacoff, manaager of Becerril, asked if Escalera would be permitted to bring his pet seven-foot snake into the ring. Amaury Capella, Escalaer's representative, resolved that question by saying, "This will be a snakeless fight." CAPTION: Picture 1, Muhammad Ali steps aside after weighing in at 221 1/4 to announce he is contributing $200,000 to buy tickets to be distributed to underpriviledged people in Washington., by Richard Darcey - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Alfredo Evangelista tips the scales at 209 pounds.