A few pimps and elegantly dressed prostitutes occasionally wandered through the hotel's stately lobby, tossing smiles and friendly hellos, and soul singers Aretha Franklin and Natalie Cole boogied with a dozen other folks in a posh disco upstairs. But the Hyatt Regency Hotel here, which for two exciting weeks served as Sugar Ray Leonard's headquarters, just wasn't the same place early today after Leonard lost his welterweight crown to Roberto Duran.
The enthusiasm and magic that reigned for 14 days here among fight fans in downtown Montreal's classiest hotel was gone, replaced by a quiet dignity. Roger Leonard, Sugar Ray's brother, slouched in a velvet lobby booth, sporting cuts and bruises from his own fight earlier, and declared, over and over, "I want him. I want Duran. I want to fight him next."
Janks Morton, Ray Leonard's longtime friend and confidant, consoled the scores of silent fans and hangerson huddled in the lobby by saying, "It's cool, everything's cool. Steady, steady."
"I don't care!" stammered John Sootkins, a Leonard family friend who flew here from Richmond for the fight. "I don't care what the damn judges think. Ray was champ when he went into the ring and he's still the champ now."
Which was one thing on which everyone nearby could agree.
After the fight, Leonard, his wife Juanita, his father Cicero and mother Getha returned to the 28-story, chrome, steel and glass hotel, walking slowly under the proud blue and red "Home of Sugar Ray" banner banging over the front portico. They entered the front door and wound their way through a crowd of fans in the lobby. Leonard, his arms around his wife, waved, smiled slightly, then disappeared behind elevator doors.
For hours after that, while the Leonard clan of family members, business associates and trainers retired for the night, the followers lingered in the first floor foyer. Conspiracy theories popped in and out of conversations. It was the mob, said one man, shocked that Leonard lost a decision. The judges were bribed, another man said.
But such comments were rare, and lacking foundation. For the most part, there was a mannered despair shared by these people, who numbered over 100 early today, sipping drinks in a nearby lounge and reflecting on the fight on lobby sofas.
"Duran was a mean sonuvabitch, wasn't he?" John Simpkins, a portly Glen Arden, Md. butcher, asked another man.
Mean as hell," the man answered, puffing his cigar. "But Ray's coming back. I don't have to tell you that."
Sometimes the lobby doldrums were broken up by returning Duran followers, guests at the hotel, who, still waving small Panamanian flags, gabbed in Spanish about the fists of stone. But neither they nor the occasional celebrity passing through could fully take the fans' minds off the rudeness of defeat.
"It was a hell of a fight," said Los Angeles Laker basketball star Magic Johnson, a Leonard backer. "I swear I don't know how those judges came to decide the way they did."
"You gonna see Ray, Magic?" one woman asked.
"No, ma'am," he answered. "I know what it is to lose. I'm sure he just wants to be left alone."
Then there were the surreal moments, Wilfredo Benitez, who, if Leonard had won Friday's bout, was certain to get a rematch with him, went up and down, up and down, up and down the hotel elevators, alone, red-eyed, mumbling, "I just want to fight."
Roger Leonard and Sootkins, meanwhile, commiserated in the lobby.
"Ray gave me my ticket, right down there on the ring," said Sootkins. "And I saw it. My man did't lose that fight."
"He did, man, he did," another man nearby said. "The judges said he lost, so he lost. You just gotta take it from there. Backtracking don't help nobody."
After a pause, Sootkins said, "Man, just yesterday I was sitting here goofing off and clowning and shooting pictures of Ray and Bundini Brown. Put the film right there on the sofa and somebody stole it."
"Sick of this town, ain't you?" Roger Leonard asked.
"It's dead," Sootkins sighed, "Real dead."