The showman in Sugar Ray Leonard, the darling of television fans, is expected to respond to friendly environs tonight.
In a Capital Centre bout, Leonard will face mature (32 years old) Bobby Haymon in a test of whether the former Olympic champion is ready to go against the rough-and tough guys.Haymon mostly is clever and fast.
The eight-round bout is expected to start at about 10 p.m. It will not be televised but will be broadcast on WMAL-63.
Leonard will be 22 May 17 and has demonstrated he has the speed, ring generalship and punch that must be respected. He has been able to give up experience in the pro ranks because of 150 bouts as an amateur.
In winning his first nine bouts as a professional (six of them by knockouts), Palmer Park's pride has not been seen taking a pounding and having a rugged opponent trying to wear him down by leaning on him and clinching.
Haymon says he isn't a deadly puncher, despite having stopped his last three opponents for a 25-6-1 record. He says most of his 10 knockout victims "just quit."
He insists that five of his six losses and a draw were "hometown decisions," two of them in favor of Johnny Gant in this area.
Gant will oppose Justice Ortiz of New City City in another eight-round welterweight bout on tonight's card, so fans may be able to make some sort of comparative judgment.
With a customary good "walkup" sale of tickets on tonight, there may be upwards of 6,000 to salute Leonard's homecoming.
Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Young set the boxing attendance record at the Centre with a crowd of 12,472. Ali and Afredo Evangelista drew 12,139, but about half of the tickets were bought by Ali or the Centre and distributed free. Larry Holmes and Fred Askew drew 10,218.
Other eight-rounders tonight pair Mike Baker of Hillcrest Heights and Frankie Kolovard of Cleveland, middleweights, and Rolan Pryor of Washington and Greg Burch of Philadelphia, welterweights. Odell Leonard of Palmer Park, a sousin of Sugar Ray, and Ronnie West of Washington will fight in a four-round welterweight bout.
The first bout begins at 8 o'clock.