The sellout crowds for last night's closed-circuit telecasts at Capital Centre and the D.C. Armory came early. They talked bravely and hung around to boo a bit after welterweight Roberto Duran was awarded the unanimous decision over Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal.
At Capital Centre, women leaned against a wall and cried as their male companions tried to comfort them.
"It's hard to believe Leonard lost," said a man who appeard to be dazed by the result. "Leonard fought a very stupid fight and maybe I'm not surprised he lost.I'm just sorry he had to lose the one he wanted so bad."
Another man cursed loudly as he paid off a bet to three smiling companions.
"Leonard cost me $300," the loser said. "I should have known better. But I'm a diehard Ray fan and I'll bet on him when they go again. It's only money."
At the Armory, several hundred fans stormed out without awaiting the decision. It was uncertain whether they sensed the verdict or whether they were racing for the last Metro train.Those who stayed booed liberally.
Long lines of people began forming at the armory nearly four hours before the main event. Many residents in the largely working-class neighborhood surrounding the armory had not been able to afford the $30 seats across the street, but some were content to pull out lawn chairs, watch those going to the telecast and cheer them on.
"Buss em up, Sugar Baby," one man said as he rocked the evening away on his front porch, sipping beer through a straw. "Leonard gonna murder (him)," said another man who sold "Roberto nuts" (roasted peanuts) outside the armory doors.
Nearby, a rent-a-truck filled with watermelons did a brisk business. Although this crowd was for Sugar Ray, it had a touch of Roberto in it.
"I'm for Duran," said York van Nixon, the chairman of the D.C. Boxing Commission, as he surveyed the sellout crowd. Before he could explain why, a large man in a cowboy hat whispered in his ear that so far at least 100 persons had managed to slip inside, some possibly by using phony tickets.
"Hell, I knew something like that would happen. Now we've got to wait and see what happens," Nixon said.
"Sugar can't win; Duran too mean," said one gap-toothed youth, who looked as if he, too, were mean. "I'm for him, though," the youngster said.
All Sugar got to do is stay out of the way" said one woman, who led a a group of eight females barreling through to their armory seats.
Four hours before the fight, the Capital Centre parking lot was nearly one-quarter full. One reason for the early arrivals was the loss of 1,400 parking spaces (the Centre normally has 6,700 spaces) to the carnival set up outside the Centre.
The early arrivals did not mind the wait (until 7:45) for the doors to open or the shortage of parking spaces. Many came with pots of food, coolers of beer and lots of old stories about boxers.
"No problem coming early," said Nick White. "I had nothing else to do and I've been waiting for this fight for a long time. If it wasn't for finanacial problems -- a bad poker game last week -- I would have gone to Montreal to see Ray. I'm a boxing fan and Leonard is my No. 1 man."
The predominantly black middle-class crowd spent the early part of the evening strolling around and through Capital Centre, either stopping to take bets or to chastise anyone who dared mention Duran as a possible winner.
"Duran has as much chance of winning this fight as I do of getting in this bathroom in the next 15 minutes," said William Morrison, standing and looking at the 20 or so men lined up. "They must have sold out the bathroom, too."