Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Johnny Gant put on a winning show last night for Sugar Ray Leonard, who was in the unusual role of spectator at Capital Centre.
Gant was silky, satin smooth in his rhythms as he just about pitched a shut-out against Sammy Ruckard of Spartanburg, S.C., before stopping him in the 10th and final round.
The virtuoso performance immediately touched off a buzz of controversy among the crowd which is certain to continue until unbeaten Leonard fights Gant in the same ring in January.
Leonard was asked about his impression of Gant against the mediocre opponent and the former Olympic champion said, somewhat grudgingly, "He was all right."
Can Leonard handle Gant's hand speed?
"I hope so," Leonard said with a mocking grin.
Dave Jacobs, Leonard's trainer, was more effusive. "Of course, Ray can handle Gant's speed. Wait till January, you'll see. I think Ray will take him out in the seventh or eighth round."
Leonard pretended to play it cool but when Gant fixed a stare in his direction before the fifth round it was called to Leonard's attention that Gant was watching him. "I hope so," Leonard said.
Many of the fans among about 2,500 in attendance kept their eyes on Leonard and his entourage as Gant snapped off slick punches at Ruckard. Between rounds there was heard the repeated question, "Do you think Ray can handle Johnny?"
And that was the topic as the fans left the arena.
Gant led on all three officials' cards by wide margins before referee Ray Klingmeyer stepped in and halted the action with 1 minute and 2 seconds gone in the 10th round. Gant was slashing at his opponent with savage one-two combinations which already had Ruckard's eyes and nose swollen.
The South Carolinaan simply could not hold off Gant's assaults.Ruckard had to be given smelling salts before coming out for the last round.
Judge Tom Kelly and referee Klingmeyer both had Gant ahead by 45-36 through nine rounds. Judge Joe Bunsa had it 45-35 in the five-point must scoring system, because he called the first round even, 5-5.
Ruckard, 146 1/2 pounds, came here with a 28-18 record, including 15 knockouts but never menaced Gant. The latter, a half-pound heavier, won his 44th bout against 11 losses and three draws. It was his 25th knockout victory.
Though Gant was in command from the outset, he boxed almost cautiously until the seventh round, when Ruckard tried to maul him inside. Gant increased the tempo and put more bite and snap into his jabs, doubled up with right crosses, then added short-arc left hooks and right uppercuts.
In a five-rounder, Sweet Roger Leonard, 158, Palmer Park, older brother of Sugar Ray, won a unanimous decesion over Stanley Blythe, 160, Spartanburg, S.C.; Henry (Bumble Bee) Bunch, 161, Palmer Park, won a unanimous decision over Henry Savage, 166 1/2 , Philadelphia; Tim (Blue) Walker, 145, Washington, decisioned unanimously Steve (Butter fly) Hughes, 147 1/2 , Oakcrest, Md., Otis Hooper, 138 1/2 , Palmer Park, won a majority decision over Ronnie Branch, 139, Baltimore, and Craig Stevens, 143 1/2 , Hillcrest Heights, won a majority decision over Ali (Sombrero) Hughes, 138 1/2 , Baltimore.