Sugar Ray Leonard seemed more stunned by the decision than by any punch Roberto Duran had landed. Dazed, Leonard waved his hand twice weakly to the crowd, then he began the chaotic loser's march from the ring for the first time in his pro life.

Ollie Dunlap held him steady from the left side, Janks Morton from the right -- and as they moved the several hundred yards the crowd's message was consistent: "You won the fight; you were robbed, Sugar."

The former World Boxing Council champ walked in silence, head high, either unable to comprehend what had taken place or the most dignified man in Olympie Stadium. A few minutes after he reached the dressing room his wife and his brother's fiance had to be carried inside. They had fainted.

Forty minutes later, Leonard and his advisers left the room and faced the public. Leonard was hand-in-hand with Juanita, his left eye clearly hurting and red welts dominating his right check and forehead.

"He threw his best," Leonard said. "I threw mine. The best man came out on top. I knew it was close. He had the early rounds, kinda like dominated. oWe did quite a bit of wrestling."

That especially angered one of the promoters, Bob Arum, who dashed from Leonard's dressing room and hissed: "The referee (Carlos Padilla) ought to get arrested. To do what he did to (Vito) Antuofermo and then what he let this guy (Duran) get away with is a disgrace.

"It's a God-damn disgrace."

Referee Padilla's selection had seemed a clear advantage to Leonard, for his history of not allowing much inside work to the body and breaking fighters at the first hint of a clinch had been a public frustration to Duran's handlers.

Tonight, the man some accused of not allowing Antuofermo a chance to defend his middleweight title seemed timed at best. Usually, he would tap either Leonard or Duran on the back and then step back quickly, as though afraid one or the other would turn and belt him.

"Too much wrestling," Leonard's chief fight-night adviser, Angelo Dundee, said. "Too one-sided. But I'm not complaining. You have good nights and bad nights. Ray went in the ring a champion and went out a champion. I'm proud of him."

That was the public show of grace, after Dunlap left the dressing room perhaps a half hour after Leonard arrived and yelled at his angry faithful: "We showed class when we won; we'll show class when we lose."

Still, Dunlap could not help muttering: "Why don't they (the judges) just go out and rob a bank?"

Nearby, two of Leonard's aides were engaged in perhaps the most perceptive discussion of any.

"Robbed," one said.

"All they want is a rematch," said the other. "That's what they want to do."

Inside and outside the dressing room, the major frustration was how the judges could take Leonard's title without an overwhelming performance by challenger Duran. The champ is supposed to get the benefit of the doubt, isn't he?

"This knocks that theory into a crooked hat, doesn't it?" Dundee said.

Leonard volunteered that his prefight strategy of matching puncher Duran blow for blow was risky, but said: "I fought him the way I thought he could be beaten. It was a very dangerous tactic -- and we collided heads. It was my decision to stand there. I felt I could do more damage.

"And I hit him with some tremendous shots, rights and leads. Padilla did a pretty good job. I have no excuses. I did the best I could. Losing never crossed my mind. I never thought he was ahead.

"But it was up to the judges. They felt he won. I'll go along with their opinion."

Leonard said Duran dazed him with a right in the second round, "but I was in such perfect condition I was able to come back."

Of his future, Leonard at first said: "If I get a rematch, I'll come back just as strong as ever." A few minutes later he said: "It's not up to anyone but myself and Juanita. I'll take it easy for a while, let her pretty much erase things.

"My main concern is my wife, her mental attitude. Her concern comes first. A woman always says no, but she sticks behind me 100 percent."

Was he aware Juanita apparently passed out before the ninth round? Leonard, was asked.

"No," he snapped.

The fighters seemed to yell at one another at times during the fight. Said Leonard: "I'm quite sure he didn't understand what I said. I know I didn't know what he said."