It was like this last night at Capital Centre: midway through the 14th round, when Sugar Ray Leonard -- a.k.a. "my main man" -- made the Hit Man hit the ropes, a reporter turned to a fellow who went to high school with Sugar Ray and asked for his reaction. The fellow put his arms around the reporter and kissed her.
Embarrassed only slightly, he backed off and said ever so softly, "May I?"
The answer was drowned out by 19,400 hoarse partisans who stood and screamed at the Telscreen, talking to Leonard as if he could hear them.
"Whose got the reach now?"
"Nobody's gonna say nothing now, Ray."
In a pause between the stomping and the screaming, the high fives and the low fives, Charlie Miller, a moderate man from Silver Spring who bet only $50 on Sugar, said, "Yessirr. I sure got my $30 worth."
Undoubtedly the same could be said for the rest of the crowd, which made the fight the largest grossing event in the history of Capital Centre -- $550,000.
In the early rounds, when Leonard was getting hit, there were cheers for his misses and calls of "eat him alive, eat him alive."
But even those who had hedged their bets and gave Hearns the benefit of the doubt at the beginning were with Leonard at the end. "I feel wonderful, wonderful," said William Springer of Washington as he moved through the crowd. "Why? Because Ray won and so many people wanted him to lose. They are envious, jealous, and he's such a beautiful man. He's a doll."
Approximately 7,000 fans turned up at Cole Field House in College Park last night, many of them apparently unsure of whom to support verbally and emotionally when the bout first began. About 70 percent of the crowd seemed to be in favor of Leonard when the fighters entered the ring.
The home of Maryland basketball grew silent as Hearns appeared to be leading on points as late as the 13th round. By the time Leonard began belting Hearns in the 13th and 14th rounds, the auditorium was decisively in favor of Maryland's favorite son.
At Charles Town Race Track, 15,112 people had paid $10 each by 7:30 p.m. to watch the fight and the nine-race program. When the price of admission went up to $15 after 7:30, there were long lines at the entrance. The fight also proved a bonanza at the betting windows, where $629,971 was wagered.
Offical attendance at the half-mile oval in West Virginia was 21,4080. The pro-Leonard crowd rose as one when he started to pound Hearns in the 14th round. When the referee finally stopped the bout, strangers began hugging one another, chanting, "Sugar Ray, Sugar Ray."
Later on, this tiny West Virginia town was the scene of perhaps the largest traffic jam in its history. Nobody was moving an hour after the fight.
At the D.C. Armory, the pro-Leonard crowd became subdued after Hearns rallied to win the 11th round. But the chant of "Go, Leonard, Go" seemed to be heard by the Palmer Park resident, and he gave the people what they wanted.
The Armory almost exploded with crowd noise when Hearns was knocked to the ropes.
Minutes later, the crowd of 9,070 jumped and danced with glee when the refreee raised Leonard's hand in triumph.
"I had $50 to my name this morning. Thirty of that went for a ticket and the other $20 was bet on the Sugar Man," said Warren Westley of Washington. "I"ll be the first one at work tomorrow to collect the dough. If I hadn't paid my car note I would have bet that too."
Outside the Armory, no one was in a particular hurry to go home. Leonard's 14th-round victory assured Metro riders of a ride home the same way they came because the subway closed at midnight. The fight ended about 11:40, giving them ample time to catch a train.
"Pound for pound, D.C. is best," said Barnett Williams of Washington. "Leonard proved he was the best. The fight was everything everyone expected it to be and everyone had to like the way it ended.''