Davey Pearl was relaxed and joking in the press area before the fight, confident he would not have any problems in the fight.

"I've worked enough title fights not to be nervous," he said. "I'm not worried about the heat. If the fight does the distance, I could lose eight pounds, but I'm in good shape. I've run five miles every day this week."

Pearl, 64, has been refereeing for almost 20 years and has worked more than 800 fights. He was the third man in the ring when Thomas Hearns knocked out Harold Weston here May 20, 1979, but never has worked a fight with Sugar Ray Leonard.

"Davey was the obvious choice," said Jay Edson, a former referee and a member of the Nevada Boxing Commission. "There were a few guys who bothered one of the camps, but both managers have a lot of respect for Pearl."

Many of the celebrities in the crowd of 25,000 showed up early and chatted among themselves in a specially roped-off area at ringside.

Bill Cosby, appearing here at one of the major hotels, was dressed casually in white tennis shorts and a blue T-shirt. He was talking with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Richard Pryor.

Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes was around Caesars Palace all day and talked with Joe Frazier back in an enclosed area out of sight of the fans.

Burt Reynolds, David Brenner and a very quiet John McEnroe were among those who watched all the preliminaries.

Although the television lights increased the temperature by 20 degrees at ringside, the weather was cooler at 6 p.m. than it had been all week and neither trainer expected the heat to be a factor in the fight.

"Both these guys are in super physical condition," said Angelo Dundee, Leonard's trainer-manager. "They've trained long and hard for this fight. I don't think either of them will have any trouble, physically, going the distance."

Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer were a late entry, arriving here Tuesday night although neither had a hotel room or a ticket to the fight. As you have have guessed, it didn't take either of the former Redskin quarterbacks long to secure both and renew a lot of acquaintances at the Caesars Palace bar.

Security seemed extraordinarily tight, with several uniformed guards every few feet and three or four at each entrance. Apparently, fight-crashers here are not especially inventive. The few counterfeit tickets that were discovered were shabbily obvious.

The enforcement staff had some predictable Vegas style. One supervisor had mace on one hip, a walkie-talkie on the other and handcuffs in the back pocket of her designer jeans.

Of the original 24 Washington-area men who invested $1,000 each to get Sugar Ray Leonard Inc. off the ground, about a third came here for a reunion of sorts. Yes, they paid their own way. One, Dr. Carl MacCartee, often gives Leonard a prefight checkup at the site.

Most of these well-to-do men sampled the Vegas games, but the man they bankrolled reportedly stayed away for the most part. According to his lawyer, Mike Trainer, Leonard played some blackjack, but only to relieve boredom and never for more than $100 to $200.