Boone Pultz has this tattoo on his right arm, one that shows a hand going into a heart and says "Denise's Prisoner of Love." He still thinks about having a piece of skin grafted over the mark, but the scar it leaves sometimes can be as bad as the tattoo.

Who is Denise? people ask him all the time. And are you really her prisoner? Her prisoner of love?

It never was hard to get Boone Pultz going. He loves to talk, and nobody loves to hear him more than his promoters, Charles Rosenbleet and Bruce McHale, who hear the crisp flush of dollar bills whenever their client gets going. But the business of that tattoo confounds Pultz and leaves him at a loss for words, mainly because it makes him look back on a time that's hard to figure out. Boone Pultz, who is a professional fighter and a pretty good upstart for a man 26, got it when he was only 13 years old, when he might have been out on a playground after school, cleaning chalkboard erasers and doing right by the teacher.

When you saw him, though, he was selling produce off a street corner in Suitland or Capitol Heights, sometimes bringing in $100 a day. Or he was out in a field with his big brother Alan, trying to deal the speakers and stereo components and jam boxes they bought wholesale in New York. Boone had quit school at 12 to help out a family that was hardly a family anymore. Not long before his mother fell sick with muscular dystrophy and was permanently disabled, his father packed his bags and hit the road. There was more pain in that house than money. So guess who went to work?

"My father?" Pultz says. "He just left. I see him about once a year. He drops in or I run into him. I try to get him feeling good and make him laugh. But it's hard. He doesn't seem to like looking me in the eye."

Boone Pultz will defend his USBA cruiserweight title Saturday night at the D.C. Convention Center against Stanley Ross, a Philadelphian who has lost or tied half of his 20 professional fights. As a 190-pounder, Pultz is undefeated after 12 bouts and ranked fifth by the World Boxing Council and sixth by the World Boxing Association.

The promoter of the event, Charles Rosenbleet, had considered calling the show "Bombs Away!", honoring the Dec. 7 anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But his publicist, Patti Dreifuss, convinced him that playing one of John Phillip Sousa's marches before the main event would be more appropriate. She also knew that by virtue of his race alone, Boone Pultz should have little trouble hyping the show and filling the 2,300-seat arena.

Boone Pultz, you should know, is white, and that means everything and nothing in the fight game.

It is easy enough to understand why Boone Pultz would be tempted to try to make a living in the ring. Married at 16, and now the father of three young children, he knew there was only so much money to be made working sheet metal and dealing electronics. He never had accepted those jobs anyway, not as a way to leave his mark on the world, and neither had his brother, whose dream was to get a weekend survival school going in the Virginia country.

Boone said he thought "boxing was something people did back in the 1920s" until he saw the movie "Rocky." He and his buddy, Tommy Nolan, bought a speed bag and set it up in the basement. As an amateur, Boone was big and fast and tough. And that meant a chance to hit somebody, and to turn pro after dropping his share of opponents. But being white meant that Boone Pultz, Denise's Prisoner of Love, would become another in a long line of Great White Hopes.

Said Bruce McHale, Rosenbleet's partner, "The odds of making money are against us. Boone's a white guy and he can fight. Whether or not he can fight well enough to go all the way is a question. But a good white fighter these days can make everyone around him rich."

Rosenbleet and McHale are a couple of Washington attorneys who met at George Washington University law school and later worked together in the public defender's office. McHale said they handled felony cases -- "murders, rapes, that kind of thing" -- and spent so much time "in each other's pockets" that they decided to start their own firm.

Rosenbleet's knowledge of the fight game was limited to those Friday night fights he had watched on television as a boy, and the little he read in the local paper. McHale said he never could adequately resolve the philosophical problems he had with the sport until that day in 1984 when trainer Jose Correa stopped by their office for legal advice.

Correa, who runs The Latin Connection, a famous Washington gym, wanted to know if Rosenbleet and McHale could help two of his best fighters, welterweights Maurice Blocker and Simon Brown, break their contractual agreements with Elbaum & Menas, a management and promotion company based in Atlantic City, N.J. Rosenbleet said they ended up filing suit after "going over the contract a hundred times" and "feeling there were grounds for a breach." The case was finally settled and a complicated pay-out arrangement reached with Elbaum & Menas.

Rather than return to dealing solely with real estate and personal injury cases, Rosenbleet and McHale signed on Blocker and Brown as clients and started their own promotion company, Star Sport Inc.

Then came Pultz, who wanted to be released from his contract with brothers Carl and Lou Duva. After that was taken care of, Rosenbleet decided to devote all of his time to the boxing end of their law firm, and McHale agreed to handle the legal end.

The fights Saturday at the Convention Center will be only the second promotion Star Sport has handled. The first saw Blocker strip Pedro Vilella of his NABF welterweight title. It also showed Rosenbleet and McHale the problems one faces when putting together a big fight night. On top of being responsible for rounding up a security force, several extra pairs of trunks and shoe laces and somebody to sing the national anthem, Rosenbleet said they had to fight off a competitor who was calling local radio stations and telling them the show was canceled. As it turned out, only about 2,000 people showed up at an arena that holds more than 11,000.

Said Rosenbleet, "The discouragement was offset by the fact that Maurice Blocker won the title and those who saw him do it saw a great fight."

Now, the two Washington lawyers are dreaming of pushing Boone Pultz to a pair of world championships, first as a cruiserweight, then as a heavyweight. Pultz has cracked that Michael Spinks, the current heavyweight king, has "a bird chest." And he already has started spending some of the money he plans to make.

The other day, Pultz leased a two-door Lincoln Continental Mark VII while waiting for his four-door Mercedes Benz to come in. He told his wife of 10 years, Denise, not to worry. Soon, they would all be rolling in it. And no one -- not him, not her, not anyone -- ever again will be held prisoner.