Life is one dog after another nipping at the heels of Bobby Haymon, a 32-year-old meter reader in Cleveland.

Haymon feels he is the worst votegetter since Harold Stassen, and he's preparing for the worst from the judges in tomorrow night's fight against Sugar Ray Leonard at Capital Centre.

Haymon retired for four years "because nothing was going my way. I was fighting in the other guy's hometowns and was not getting the decisions I deserved. Five of the six bouts I've lost were on hometown decisions, and so was the draw. I was making no progress.

"I fought Johnny Gant twice in the Washington area and ran into the same things."

Gant, who is fighting on the bottom half of the card Thursday, decisioned Haymon in a six-round bout here April 8, 1969, and in a 10-round bout in Baltimore Aug. 24, 1972.

"Two shots I had with contenders were in their hometowns - Ronnie Harris in Detroit and Jack Tillman in New Orleans - and the same thing happened," Haymon said. "For the last two years, I had been training amateur fighters, until I got three bouts, the last in January against Larry McCall."

Haymon said his record is 25-6-1 and not 21-6-2, as advertised. "Odell Leonard (Sugar Ray's cousin) must have misunderstood me when I came to the Washington area for a news conference last week. Or he's not counting my last three bouts."

Haymon confirmed that those three bouts ended in knockouts but when he was asked if he regarded himself as a knockout puncher, as he has been called recently, Haymon said, "No, I'm a boxer. I'm a mover. I can't punch at all."

How does he account for the knockouts?

"Most of the guys just quit."

And the total number of knockouts on his record?

"I think 10; I don't count them."

Ed Sweeny, the Cleveland promoter who had Haymon under contract for about April 5 but released him for the shot at Leonard, said, "Bobby is a bona fide welterweight who weights about 144-145 pounds. He has a good left hook but it doesn't explode.

He's an exceptional boxer a little past his prime. He could have beaten Leonard five years ago. He still may.He's in very good condition. Most established fighters want no part of him. He ought to be able to go at high speed for the eight rounds. He's not a puncher. He's never been hurt.

"He hasn't pushed himself because he doesn't need to.He's worked two jobs, at the gas company and at nights for an automobile club as a sort of executive. He's a class kid."

Boxing writer Doug Clark of Cleveland said, "Leoard is going to run into a guy who knows what he's doing. He'll give Leonard lessons for a couple rounds.

"He's a boxer . . . smooth. He's been around a very long time. He was in a state of semiretirement for a couple years."

Haymon said he's been boxing since 1969. He saw Leonard's last fight, on television, when he knocked out Javier Muniz in the first round.

"He's got good, fast hands," Haymon said. "He's impressive. I think I've got a chance."

Just a chance?

"I mean I wouldn't have taken the bout if I didn't think I had a chance. I think I'm going to win. I took this bout because it could lead to a title shot. Leonard's the hottest thing in boxing.

"My reflexes are intact; they may be better than before I quit. I'm a little bigger than Leonard at 5-9 1/2 and 147, a natural welterweight. If the fight's close - win, lose or draw - I'd like a rematch."

That may be because Haymon said this will be his biggest purse ever, although he was advised by his manager not to disclose the amount. His previous high was $1,500.