The British journalist at ringside said his name was John Wilson and that he was representing a magazine called Aggressive Woman.

The aggressive women in the ring were wearing men's athletic supporters and chest protectors, which didn't do much for sex appeal.

"Its ridiculous," said Joanna Needham, pointing to the plastic belt around her midsection as she awaited her next bout in the Toughest Guy/-Toughest Gal competition at the D.C. Armory last night.

The Toughest Guy/Toughest Gal brawl turned out to be what most people expected -- a sad drama played out before a 1,000 or so spectators who spent about half their time shrieking angrily at the fighters and the other half waiting for something to happen.

The highlight among the men's bouts, as a dozen males vied for the title of "Toughest Guy in the Nation's Capital," was the arrival of Ralph Humes ("That's Rev. Ralph Humes," he said) for his test against 6-foot-4 Reginald Monroe.

"All the way like Sugar Ray," the 165-pound Humes shouted as he entered the ring. Then he performed a standing back flip, landing neatly on his feet. t

"I'm fighting this one for Jesus Christ, the blind people and all the poor kids," Humes said, adding that he had fought once before at Lorton Reformatory.

Humes lasted a couple of two-minute rounds, taking a pummeling, and finally was knocked down on a right cross from Monroe, a karate specialist. Humes was out for the count and Monroe went off to the locker room to vomit.

"The best man won," said Humes.

It went on that way through some 17 bouts as 12 men and eight women battled to collect paychecks of $750 and $500 for the top two women and $1,000 and $750 for the final two men.

Said television newsman Ed Turney: "I don't really know what to do. You have some sincere people up there (the fighters) and everyone else is looking for a freak show."

It was not a merciful crowd. When 240-pound April Alm squared off against 195-pound Hope Sykes in a women's bout, someone shouted, "Come on April, dazzle us with your fat work."

Promoter Peter Carroll, perched at ringside with a woebegone look as he analyzed the likely monetary losses he would incur, promised that all the fighters would be paid.

"I should have made it a two-day thing," he said. "With all the press coverage here (there were three TV crews in the room), we'd have had a full house tomorrow."

The best fight: Raquel (Rock) Mellon, a go-go dancer who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, against Needham, a senior at American University, a disciplined karate fighter and a thoroughly serious athlete. Needham, her long braid flying, scored a second-round TKO and left the crowd cheering.

In her semifinal bout, paired against Alm, Needham again had the crowd on its feet. She sent the bigger woman to the canvas in the second round and then turned Alm's face into a blood-soaked mess in the third and final round before the fight was called and Needham declared the winner.

Wilson, from Aggressive Woman magazine, liked the winner's style. "Quite frankly, my readers aren't interested in fat, old boozers," he said.

The long evening was enlivened by three fights in the crowd, including one in which two black-jacketed bikers pounded a third man.

For the record, the Toughest Gal title was split between Needham and Sheila Bethea, 22, a computer science student. Boxing commissioners said the weight difference between the 165-pound Needham and the 133-pound Bethea was too great to permit them to fight. Both were to receive $750, according to an agreement with Carroll.

The Toughest Guy was 210-pound Hollis Webster, a handsome auto mechanic from Kensington who entered the competition on a dare.

Webster, fighting tirelessly, defeated 310-pound Bruce Adney in the final bout of the evening, just after midnight. He was awarded the victory on a decision.

Had he thought he had a chance against the huge Adney? "Yeh, man," said Webster, blood streaming from his nose. "Everybody has a chance."