North American featherweight Champion Ron McGarvey is 33 and close to the big money. A victory tonight in Baltimore's Civic Center over top contender Shig Fukuyama of Japan would likely give the Adelphi Irishman a shot at World champion Danny Lopez, a fight he is certain he would win.

But it wasn't always that way. McGarvey, a blond southpaw with a dent in his nose, said, "I didn't know who I was or where I was going" just 10 years ago. I was working at odd jobs, taking a fight now and then and generally going nowhere. A fight in the local beer parlor was considered a good night's fun. I was on a one way ride to Palookaville.

"Then I found Jesus," he said. "My life, that of my wife and family changed. It has been tough at times to be sure. But He tells me the way and I go. Right now I believe. He has good things in store for me. However, whatever happens it will be O.K. with me since I know it is His Will."

McGarvey's opponent is no palooka. The name Shig Fukuyama meant something in featherweight circles a few years ago but a lost title shot and an injury to his ankle has kept the free-swinging battler out of action for many months.

Paul Piglao, West Coast importer of Oriental fighters, said, "My guy (Fukuyama) knows how to fight. He'll roll right over McGarvey. My fighter's hungry again."

But so is McGarvey hungry. The father of seven shows a 32-2-0 record that includes a knockout loss to the champion, Alfredo Escalara, in a nationally televised fight that saw both man in serious weight and punching power ended the sensational bout. In his next fight McGarvey posted a convincing knockout over Miguel meza at the Capital Centre, at which time he was crowned featherweight champion by the North American Boxing Federation.

Also on the Critic Center card is area favorite Leo Saenz, who is matched against Rene Pinder, two heavyweight bouts and a lightheavy-weight match between Lou Benson and Carlos Prigg. In a special six-rounder Joe Sprowl of Washington, takes on Baltimorean Louis Butler. It is a rematch of a hard fought contest that ended in a draw.

The first bout is scheduled for 8 p.m.