The verbal sparring between Sugar Ray Leonard and Johnny Gant eased off yesterday at a Touchdown Club luncheon, but fight fans still were buying tickets "with both hands" as the expression goes.

The advance sale for the 12-round welterweight bout at Capital Centre on Thursday, Jan. 11, shot past $100,000.

Matchmaker Eddie Hrica said that represents about 7,000 tickets sold, priced at $30, $20, $10 and $7.50. The higher priced seats usually sell earlier.

The Centre will be set up with 19,100 seats for the fight, and if it sells out, the gross receipts would be about $300,000.

"On January 11," said Leonard, "is the fight that's going to prove who's No. 1 (in this area) and who's going to get a shot at the title."

Jose (Pipino) Cuevas of Mexico is recognized as welterweight champion by the World Boxing Association; countryman Carlos Palomino by the World Boxing Council.

For what the ratings are worth to the fan, the WBA ranks Leonard No. 4 contender and Gant not at all.

The WBC ranks Leonard No. 10, Gant No. 8. Ring magazine rates Leonard No. 3, Gnat No. 4. In its United States rankings, Ring rates Leonard No. 1, Gant No. 2.

Unbeaten Leonard, 22, has won 10 of his 17 bouts by Knockouts since winning an Olympic gold medal. Gant, 29, is a veteran of 58 bouts, winning 44, 25 by knockouts, losing 11 and drawing in three.

Gant had a shot at the WBA title when it was held by Angel Espada of Puerto Rico and lost a 15-round decision Oct. 11, 1975, in Espada's hometown of Ponce.

In his last bout, on Nov. 21, Gant stopped Sammy Ruckard of Spartangurg, S.C., in the 10th round at Capital Centre.

On Dec. 9, Leonard stopped Armando Muniz of Mexico in the seventh round at Springfield, Mass.Leonard is fighting only his second bout at Capital Centre. On April 13, 1978, he knocked out Bobby Haymon of Cleveland in the third round and set a Maryland attemdance record of 15,272.

Leonard made reference to Gant's record, saying, "I respect Johnny, even though he made me mad when he said recently that he had been fighting A and B class boxers while I've been fighting Bs and Cs.

"He said he is going to knock me out in seventh or eithth round, but he is going to be too busy to do that because I'm going to knock him out in the fifth.

"I have no animosity toward him. I respect him, because he has paid his dues (in those 58 bouts). He says he is 29; I hope he is 35."