Sugar Ray Leonard, inactive since he defeated Roberto Duran for the WBC welterweight championship in November, puts his title on the line, in a manner of speaking, when he takes on left-handed Larry Bonds of Denver Saturday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

The fight will not be on home television, but will be carried by Home Box Office on cable television. Leonard will earn between $500,000 and $1 million for the fight, depending on the gate. Bonds, the sixth-ranked welterweight according to the WBC ratings, will get $85,000 and $15,000 for expenses, said Leonard's attorney, Mike Trainer.

According to Bonds' manager, Carl King, the son of promoter Don King, Leonard's opponent had never earned more than $2,500 in any of his previous fights. He has a record of 30-3, but has never gone 15 rounds and hasn't fought since April.

So why is Leonard fighting him?

Trainer said Leonard decided in late January that he wanted to fight again before his June middleweigt title bout against Ayub Kalule.

According to Leonard, "The reason to fight Bonds is that he's acceptable and available. We made a proposition to (Wilfred) Benitez and he turned it down flat. He didn't want to get back in the ring with me. We offered Aaron Pryor a half-million and he turned it down flat. And the invincible, incredible Thomas Hearns was offered $4 million. The contracts are made up. They're waiting to be signed. He's been calling me a chicken, a turkey. This is eight times as much as he's ever made and wants to say no."

Bonds' comanagers, King and Bobby Lewis, said their fighter hasn't fought since April because good boxers duck him for fear of his left-handed style. That is also one reason Bonds is perfect for Leonard. Kalule also is a left-hander.

"If Ray's management had any other way to go, they would have gone it," said King. "Larry got it (the fight) primarily because he hasn't fought in a year, so no one can figure out why he's still in the top 10."

"He can't beat Leonard, but he can fight," Trainer said. "A lot of people can't beat Ray. What are we supposed to do, only fight guys people think can beat him?"

Tickets for the fight in Syracuse were priced at $60 for ringside, then $20 and $10, and Trainer said that 13,000 had been sold as of last Wednesday.

The fight will be on television at the Capital Centre Saturday night immediately following the Bullet-Detroit game. Admission to the game will enable patrons to watch the fight.