Sugar Ray Leonard
- Category : Boxer
- Type : GE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Small (20,36)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 2
Ray Charles Leonard (born May 17, 1956) is a retired American professional boxer. He was one of the leading boxers in the world in the late 1970s and 1980s, winning world titles at multiple weights and engaging in contests with such celebrated opponents as Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler. He was named after the singing legend Ray Charles. Leonard was given the nickname "Sugar" by one of his amateur coaches in his hometown of Palmer Park, Maryland.
Ray's older brother, Roger Leonard, was also a professional boxer, as well as an amateur standout. He frequently found on the undercard of Ray's bouts .
Sugar Ray Leonard had an extremely successful amateur career, winning several championships, three Golden Gloves, 5 gold medals, 1 silver, and 1 bronze, two AAU championships, and a gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games. His amateur career culminated in an Olympic gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, where Leonard was a member of what is considered to be the best American Olympic boxing team ever. Fighting as a junior welterweight, Sugar Ray finished his amateur career with a record of 145-5, with 75 KO's. After winning the gold medal, Leonard told sportscaster Howard Cosell he was quitting boxing for good.
After this success, Leonard wanted to attend the University of Maryland. However, his father became ill and his family needed money. With no endorsement contracts coming his way, Leonard announced his intention to become a pro boxer.
Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali's trainer, was brought in to be Leonard's co-trainer. Long-time coaches Janks Morton, Dave Jacobs and lawyer Mike Trainer made up the rest of Leonard's team. Promoted by ABC TV as their replacement for the aging Ali, Leonard made $40,000 for his first professional fight (then a record) against Puerto Rican Luis Vega. The fight was televised nationally on CBS-TV, and the novice Leonard won by a 6 round unanimous decision.
Leonard won his first 25 pro fights. In Sugar Ray's most impressive performance to date, he knocked out Pete Ranzany in four rounds to win the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) welterweight championship. This bout took place in August 1979. A month later, a 1st round KO of respected contender Andy Price followed. Price had won his last four bouts, three of them in 1979, but was decisively beaten by Leonard. Leonard then signed to meet Wilfred Benitez for the WBC welterweight title in November.
WBC World Champion
In a highly competitive battle, Leonard became world champion with a technical knockout in round 15, with the referee stopping the fight in Leonard's favor with 6 seconds left. Leonard led by 2, 4, and 7 points on the three judges' scorecard at the time of the stoppage.
In March 1980, Leonard won his first defense by easily beating British challenger Dave "Boy" Green in four rounds in Landover, Maryland. Green had been a very busy fighter, having fought 6 times in 1979, winning 5 of them.
Next, Leonard went back to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to defend his title against former lightweight champion Roberto Duran, in the first superfight of the 1980s. In a long, grueling contest, mostly fought against the ropes or in corners, the more experienced Duran outmauled Leonard and captured a close, but unanimous decision. Leonard surprised many observers by standing flat-footed with the Panamanian slugger.
Their rematch was held in New Orleans on November 25, 1980. This time around, Leonard used far more lateral movement and jabs, staying off the ropes whenever possible. In round 7, Leonard taunted Duran, dropping his arms and winding up with a bolo punch. Neither fighter had absorbed much punishment, but Leonard had a narrow lead on all three scorecards after 7 rounds. In round 8, Duran turned around, walked to his corner and gave up. Although Duran is widely remembered for the now famous words, "no más," he never actually said them. It was actually commentator Howard Cosell who uttered the phrase. Regardless, the sports world was stunned by Duran's actions. The controversy regarding this bout and Duran's motivation for quitting continues to this day. However, in an interview with ESPN, Duran had stated that he had started to get stomach cramps and felt it better to quit now than suffer through it.
But Leonard was a world champion again and, after avenging his only defeat, once more was on top of the boxing world.
In March 1981, Leonard scored a routine 10th round TKO of unheralded Larry Bonds in a welterweight title defense.
A second world title, and "The Showdown" with Thomas Hearns
On June 25, 1981, Leonard fought undefeated Ayub Kalule, world junior middleweight champion. Kalule gave Leonard a tough fight, but Sugar Ray won via a 9th round TKO.
Undefeated arch-rival Thomas Hearns, meanwhile, was tearing apart the welterweight division and had won the WBA world title by knocking out Pipino Cuevas. Hearns seemed unbeatable, having scored 30 KO's in 32 fights. A unification bout was set for September 16, 1981, once again at Caesar's Palace.
Hearns unexpectedly weighed in at a very light 145 pounds, causing many to speculate he over-trained. "The Showdown" was televised on closed-circuit and pay-per-view outlets throughout the world.
Hearns controlled the early rounds with his jab, keeping Leonard off-balance. In the middle rounds, Leonard got inside and seriously hurt Hearns with left hooks. From rounds 8-12, Hearns rebounded and took charge by becoming the boxer, using side-to-side movement, steady jabs and occasional right crosses. Leonard's left eye, injured during a sparring session two weeks earlier, began to swell up. By the end of round 12 it was almost completely closed.
Warned by trainer Angelo Dundee that he was "blowing it," Leonard roared out in the 13th round and seriously hurt Hearns with a barrage of punches and knocked him down. Hearns barely survived the round. In the 14th, a combination of blows prompted the referee to stop the fight. At the time of the stoppage, all 3 judges had Hearns ahead on points. Leonard was now the undisputed welterweight champion, and had greatly increased his popularity and respect among sports fans.
Sugar Ray was later named Fighter of the Year by Ring Magazine for 1981, and they also tabbed his fight with Hearns as Fight of the Year. In addition, Ray was named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.
In February 1982 Leonard KO'd Bruce Finch in the 3rd round to retain his undisputed title. However, Leonard's next defense against Roger Stafford in May had to be canceled. A few days before the bout, doctors discovered Leonard had suffered a detached retina in his left eye, and he underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins hospital to repair the problem. The boxing world had to wait 6 months for Leonard to announce his future boxing plans. His future plans generated much speculation.
Retirement and 1st comeback
In November 1982, after consulting with doctors, friends and family, Sugar Ray invited Hagler and other boxing dignitaries to a charity event in Baltimore, Maryland. Standing in a boxing ring with ABC's Howard Cosell nearby, Leonard announced his retirement, saying a bout with Hagler would unfortunately never happen. Leonard maintained his eye was fully healed, but that he just didn't want to box anymore. In retirement, Leonard continued to be a commentator on HBO & CBS boxing contests, and performed other assignments for them. He also did more endorsements.
Missing the limelight, and the big purses of boxing, Leonard announced in December 1983 that he was returning to the ring. This was the first of what would be several boxing comebacks during his career. Leonard boasted that he would re-claim his welterweight titles, and then take on Aaron Pryor, Donald Curry, Milton McCrory, Duran, Hearns and finally Hagler. This decision was met with a torrent of criticism from fans and the media, who felt Leonard was taking unnecessary risks with his surgically repaired eye.
A bout with Philadelphia's Kevin Howard was scheduled for February 1984 in Worcester, Massachusetts. This was postponed until May 11th when Leonard had minor corrrective surgery on his right eye. This latest eye injury further fueled the flames of those who opposed Leonard's comeback.
The Leonard-Howard bout was televised live on HBO. Howard knocked Leonard flat on his back in the 4th round . The fight had a disputed ending, with the referee stopping the fight later in Leonard's favor even though Howard had not been knocked down. At the post-fght press conference, Leonard surprised everyone by announcing his retirement again, saying he just didn't have it anymore.
Wanting to fight Marvin Hagler
In May 1986, Leonard shocked the sports world once again when he announced he would return to the ring for one more fight: against middleweight champion Marvin Hagler. This announcement generated a lot of controversy because of Leonard's inactivity and eye injuries. Yet it also excited many sports fans, who had wanted to see this match for years. Hagler took a few months to decide, then agreed to the match, scheduled for April 6, 1987 at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.
Leonard had a very long training camp for the Hagler fight it came to light after the fight.
After the Hagler fight it was also revealed that Leonard had had a number of full 12 round fights behind closed doors. These were officially sparring sessions, but with a few major differences. There were no headgaurds used, small gloves and the sparring partners were told to try there best to win over the full 12 rounds. They were basically REAL fights.
Two of the sparring were Quincy Taylor and Anthony Fletcher (who was a southpaw). Taylor floored Leonard during one of these 'fights'.
The bout against Hagler was marketed by the promoters as "The Superfight". In exchange for more money, an over-confident Hagler agreed to a 12 round limit (which guaranteed WBC sanction) and 10-ounce gloves. The 12-round limit would haunt Hagler later on. Leonard-Hagler was broadcast on pay-per-view TV and closed-circuit outlets all over the world and was a huge money maker.
Hagler was a heavy favorite, the odds starting at 4-1, then settling at 3-1. Leonard had only fought once in five years, and had never fought as a middleweight. It was only Hagler's third fight in two & a half years as he entered the twilight of a glittering career. Leonard used the same tactics as he did in the 2nd Duran match, lateral movement, jabs and clinching when he was in trouble. Hagler had trouble keeping up with the fleet-footed Leonard. In general, Hagler landed the harder blows, Leonard landed more and the flashier ones, and neither fighter was cut or knocked down. Leonard was warned repeatedly for holding by the referee, but no points were deducted. The decision went to Leonard via split decision. Hagler bitterly protested the result, and many boxing fans and writers have argued about the decision since.
Despite pleas from Hagler's camp for a rematch, Leonard announced his retirement a month later.
Past his prime, but still fighting
On November 7, 1988 Leonard came back and fought Don Lalonde. In a tough, brusing battle, Sugar Ray suffered a 4th round knockdown and was cut on the nose. Yet he recoverd and knocked out Lalonde in the ninth round to win two world titles in one fight, the newly created WBC super middleweight championship, and Lalonde's WBC light heavyweight championship. This arrangement was somewhat controversial because light-heavyweight LaLonde had to weigh-in at or below the super-middleweight limit of 168 pounds.
In 1989, Leonard fought two old rivals. In June, he battled Hearns again at Caesar's Palace. In an exciting battle, Leonard was knocked down twice, but the decision by the officials was a twelve round draw. Most onlookers thought the draw decision unfair since Hearns knocked Leonard down twice. Years later, Leonard himself would admit this to Hearns on ESPN's Ringside TV program. Nevertheless, the draw decision enabled Leonard to retain his WBC Super-Middleweight title. Six months later, in December 1989, Sugar Ray fought Roberto Duran for a third time. This matchup took place at the new Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Leonard used constant lateral movement and won by a lopsided twelve round unanimous decision over a listless Duran. In a fight that many considered to be very boring, both fighters were booed often by the fans and many left the arena before the decision was announced.
Failed comebacks and post-boxing life
Leonard was inactive in 1990, but came back in February 1991 to fight world junior middleweight champion Terry Norris at Madison Square Garden, Leonard's first outing there. Norris knocked Leonard down twice and won a lopsided unanimous decision. After the verdict was announced, a battered Leonard took the microphone and once again announced his retirement.
Around this time, Leonard's job as a boxing commentator with HBO came to an end. His association with CBS had ended a few years earlier.
Ahead were very difficult times: after the fight, Leonard admitted to a stint with cocaine that lasted from 1982 to 1986. He fell victim to the drug, and reports surfaced of violence against his wife Juanita. Leonard admitted that his problems were caused by a need to be involved in the sport of boxing during the periods he was away from it, and immaturity.
He and Juanita divorced, and in 1993, he married Bernadette Robi, the daughter of Paul Robi, a member of the original Platters.
In 1997, at age 40, Leonard launched his final boxing comeback against former lightweight champion Hector 'Macho' Camacho. Years past his prime, Leonard was easily stopped by the smaller, usually light-hitting Camacho in 5 rounds. After this humiliating defeat, it was finally enough for Leonard, and he has not fought since. Later that year, Leonard was inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.
For a short time, Leonard headed a boxing promotion company that included world cruiserweight champion Vassiliy Jirov and rising heavyweight Joe Mesi.
He is currently involved in the TV reality boxing series, The Contender and has served as host and boxing mentor to the aspiring fighters. His former co-host Sylvester Stallone was one of the executive producers, along with Mark Burnett.
A show on ESPN, Sugar Ray hosts' the show The Contender. The Contender is a reality television show in which professional boxers, usually prospects or trialhorses, fight for the opportunity to win one million dollars. Now for this season it is the US vs UK from fighters of the first and second season on it!