International Boxing Hall of Fame

"Sugar" Ray Leonard

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Ray Charles Leonard

Ray Charles Leonard
Statistics
Real name Ray Charles Leonard
Nickname(s) Sugar
Rated at Welterweight
Nationality Flag of the United States American
Birth date May 17, 1956 (1956-05-17) (age 52)
Birth place Wilmington, North Carolina, USA
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 40
Wins 36
Wins by KO 25
Losses 3
Draws 1
No contests 0

 

Olympic medal record
Men�s Boxing
Gold 1976 Montreal Light Welterweight

Ray Charles Leonard (born May 17, 1956) is a retired American professional boxer. Named Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s, he is widely considered to be one of the best boxers of all time, 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.

Amateur Career

In 1973, a boxing promoter noticed Leonard's natural talent and offered him $5,000 to fight in a professional bout. Leonard dismissed the offer because he wanted to qualify for the 1976 Olympics team. Before he was 20, he won three National Golden Gloves titles, two AAU championships and the 1975 Pan-American Games crown. Leonard earned a spot on the 1976 Olympic U.S. team, which included future heavyweight champions Michael Spinks and his brother Leon. Leonard, up to that point in his amateur career, had lost only five fights, among them a contested bout in 1974 against Kazimierz Szczerba of Poland.

In the Montreal Olympics, Leonard fought with photos of his high school sweetheart Juanita Wilkinson and their three-year-old son taped to his shoe. It made good copy, but he was not favored to win the gold. Leonard faced a rematch against Kazimierz Szczerba in the Olympic semifinals and defeated the Pole with a clear decision win.

A lot of amateur boxing observers thought that the great Cuban knockout artist Andres Aldama would defeat the 20-year-old Leonard in the Olympic final. Aldama was virtually a pro and had scored 5 straight knockouts to reach the finals. Ray Leonard proved that he was a great boxer by winning with an impressive 5-0 decision. Leonard brought Aldama to his knees with a left hook to the chin. Twice during the final bout, the referee had required Aldama to take a standing eight-count to prove that he was able to continue the fight. Although Aldama persisted in the match, Leonard emerged the victor and won the gold medal for the United States. It was Leonard's 145th victory as an amateur boxer.

After winning the Olympic gold Leonard announced to the press, �The journey is over, the dream fulfilled� and he retired from boxing, telling the public that he wanted to go to college. Leonard had hoped to cash in on endorsements but they never came. With the bills piling up and sickness in his family he decided to turn professional.

Amateur Achievements

  • 1972 National Golden Gloves Lightweight Champion
  • 1973 National Golden Gloves Lightweight Champion, defeating Hilmer Kenty
  • 1973 Runner-up in National AAU Light Welterweight Championships, losing to Randy Shields
  • 1974 National AAU Light Welterweight Champion
  • 1974 National Golden Gloves Light Welterweight Champion
  • 1975 National AAU Light Welterweight Champion
  • Won the Light Welterweight Gold Medal for the United States at the 1975 Pan American Games
  • Won the Light Welterweight Gold Medal for the United States at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Olympic Results

Turning Professional

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 trainer and manager. 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 4 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 the undefeated WBC World Welterweight Champion Wilfred Benitez in November.

First World Title

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 six seconds left. Leonard led by 2, 4, and 7 points on the three judges' scorecard at the time of the stoppage.

The Ring Magazine named Leonard the Fighter of the Year for 1979.

In March 1980, Leonard won his 1st defense by easily beating British challenger Dave "Boy" Green with a devastating 4th round knockout in Landover, Maryland. Green had been a very busy fighter, having fought 6 times in 1979, winning 5 of them.

Roberto Duran

Next, Leonard went back to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to defend his title against former World 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 in a very close fight and captured a majority 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 m�s," 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. Trainer and TV commentator Gil Clancy opined that perhaps Duran had to defecate. [1] In an episode of FOX Sports's Beyond The Glory, Duran's trainer said that Duran had turned to him and said "I won't fight anymore with this clown." [2] Duran's manager, Carlos Eleta, said, "Duran didn't quit because of stomach cramps. He quit because he was embarrassed."

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.

[edit] A Second World Title, and "The Showdown" with Thomas Hearns

On June 25, 1981, Leonard fought Ayub Kalule, the undefeated WBA 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 in the 2nd round. Hearns seemed unbeatable, having scored 30 KO's in 32 fights with no losses. A unification bout was set for September 16, 1981 at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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 (32-0) controlled the early rounds with his jab, keeping Leonard (30-1) 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 some sports fans. However, another group of boxing fans thought the fight was stopped prematurely, as Hearns was not seriously hurt enough to stop the fight, but Hearns's manager and trainer, Emanuel Steward, agreed with the stoppage. Steward said, "I was talking to Tommy and all of a sudden his head slumped down. He was out of gas. I knew right then it was over." [3]

Some disagreed with the judges' scorecards, arguing that rounds six and seven should have been given to Leonard by 10-8 margins. In those 2 rounds, Hearns was badly hurt but didn't go down. All three judges scored those rounds 10-9 for Leonard. [4]

Sugar Ray was later named Fighter of the Year by The 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 and "Sports Illustrated" Sportsman of the Year.

Eye Injury

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 for HBO & CBS boxing contests, and performed other assignments for them. He also did more endorsements.

Ahead were very difficult times: 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.

Missing the limelight and the competition, 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 corrective 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. It was the first knockdown of Leonard's professional career. The fight had a disputed ending, with some feeling that the referee stopped the fight prematurely. At the post-fight press conference, Leonard surprised everyone by announcing his retirement again, saying he just didn't have it anymore.

Marvelous 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 World 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. After the Hagler fight, it was revealed that Leonard 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 headguards used, small gloves and the sparring partners were told to try their best to win over the full 12 rounds. They were basically REAL fights.

Two of the sparring were Quincy Taylor, future WBC World Middleweight Champion, 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 Reyes gloves, and a big ring. 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 clenching when he was in trouble. Hagler had trouble keeping up with the fleet-footed Leonard. In general, Hagler landed the harder blows and Leonard landed more punches and the flashier ones. Neither fighter was 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, bruising battle, Sugar Ray suffered a 4th round knockdown and was cut on the nose. Yet he recovered 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. It was controversial, as most onlookers thought Hearns deserved the decision. Years later, Leonard said he too thought Hearns won the fight and he considered their rivalry tied at one win each. 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 3rd 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. Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated wrote, "Leonard gave them artistic perfection when they wanted heated battle, and they booed lustily. Most fight fans would not spend a dime to watch Van Gogh paint Sunflowers, but they would feel Yankee Stadium to see him cut off his ear."

[edit] Failed Comebacks

Leonard offered Hearns a 3rd fight, but Hearns said he could no longer make the weight and he moved up to the light heavyweight division. [5] Leonard was inactive in 1990, but came back in February 1991 to fight World Junior Middleweight Champion Terry Norris at Madison Square Garden. 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.

In 1997, at age 40, Leonard launched what has so far been 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.

Post-Boxing Life

He and Juanita divorced, and in 1993, he married Bernadette Robi, the daughter of Paul Robi, a member of the original Platters. In 1997, 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 was a recurring cast member of the American action television series, L.A. Heat in the role of Det. Benny Lewis.

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.

Personal

Ray's older brother, Roger Leonard, was also a professional boxer, as well as an amateur standout. He frequently fought on the undercard of Ray's bouts [6].

  • Ray Leonard was named after Ray Charles, whose real name is Ray Robinson. This is also the name of the original Sugar Ray, Sugar Ray Robinson (born Walker Smith, Jr.), from whom Leonard gets his nickname. Ray Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson, but shortened it to "Ray Charles" so as not to be confused with Sugar Ray Robinson.
  • Sugar Ray instructed Juanita, the 16-year-old mother of his newborn baby, to say that the father's whereabouts were unknown so that she could collect welfare benefits (Sugar Ray admitted this on an ESPN special).
  • He and Contender co-host Sylvester Stallone were among the pallbearers at Najai Turpin's funeral. Turpin was a contestant who later committed suicide in 2005.
  • Alternative band Sugar Ray was named after Leonard.
  • He is also the subject of a joke in The Diplomat's Club, an episode of the popular TV series Seinfeld in which George's boss appears very much like Sugar Ray, though neither he nor anyone else will admit it (until the end of the episode when a busboy refuses payment for the meal of "sugar ray").

Preceded by
Wilfred Benitez
WBC Welterweight Champion
30 Nov 1979 � 20 Jun 1980
Succeeded by
Roberto Duran
Preceded by
Roberto Duran
WBC Welterweight Champion
25 Nov 1980 � 9 Nov 1982
Retires
Succeeded by
Milton McCrory
Preceded by
Ayub Kalule
WBA Light Middleweight Champion
25 Jun 1981 � Jun 1981
Vacates
Succeeded by
Tadashi Mihara
Preceded by
Thomas Hearns
WBA Welterweight Champion
16 Sep 1981 � 9 Nov 1982
Retires
Succeeded by
Donald Curry
Preceded by
Marvin Hagler
WBC Middleweight Champion
6 Apr 1987 � 27 May 1987
Retires
Succeeded by
Thomas Hearns
Preceded by
Donny Lalonde
WBC Light Heavyweight Champion
7 Nov 1988 � 1989
Vacates
Succeeded by
Dennis Andries
Preceded by
N/A
Inaugural champion
WBC Super Middleweight Champion
7 Nov 1988 � 1990
Retires
Succeeded by
Mauro Galvano

 

Ray Leonard....�Sweet as Sugar�

By MONTE D. COX

Cox's Corner Profiles

The year 1976 will always be a memorable one. Two major events gave boxing a big boost. One was the summer blockbuster movie Rocky and the other was the tremendous success of the 1976 Olympic Team that won 5 gold medals, a silver, and a bronze. The darling of the Olympics was one �Sugar� Ray Leonard. Leonard had an amateur mark of 155 wins in 160 fights. Before he was 20, he won three National Golden Gloves titles, two AAU championships and the 1975 Pan-American Games crown. In the Montreal Olympics Leonard fought with photos of his high school sweetheart Juanita Wilkinson, and their three-year-old son taped to his shoe. It was good copy, but he was not favored to win the gold. A lot of amateur boxing observers thought that the great Cuban left hook artist Andres Aldama would defeat the 20 year old Leonard in the Olympic final. Aldama was virtually a pro and had scored 5 straight knockouts to reach the finals. Ray Leonard proved that he was a great boxer winning with an impressive 5-0 decision capping his outstanding amateur career by winning Olympic Gold.

After winning the Olympics Leonard announced to the press, �The journey is over, the dream fulfilled� and he retired from boxing. Leonard had hoped to cash in on endorsements but they never came. With the bills piling up and sickness in his family he decided to turn professional.

Critics have accused Ray Leonard of being a fraud, a product of careful management and television network marketing executives. An examination of Leonard�s record reveals that such criticism is unjust. On his way to the welterweight championship he defeated legitimate top contenders such as Pete Ranzany� Armando Muniz, and Randy Shields, and top 10 middleweight contender Marcos Geraldo. In his career he would defeat 4 current or future Hall of Famer�s, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler.

It was a battle of the unbeaten when Ray Leonard challenged Wilfred Benitez for the linear and WBC Welterweight championship on Nov 30, 1979 in Las Vegas. Benitez was an outstanding boxer, a defensive master who was the youngest world-boxing champion ever at age 17, when he defeated the legendary Antonio Cervantes for the Jr. welterweight title. Benitez then moved up defeating a solid professional champion in Carlos Palomino for 147-pound honors. The defending champion, Benitez was 38-0-1 (25 ko�s) and Leonard the #1 ranked challenger was 25-0 (16 ko�s).

In a tactical boxing match in which Ray Leonard was full of admiration for is opponent�s defensive prowess, �Sugar Ray� stated, �No one can make me miss punches like he did.� Ray opened quickly winning the first 3 rounds on his slightly superior hand speed and jab, scoring a flash knockdown in the third. Then beginning in the 4th Benitez changed tactics and began fighting like Leonard; it was a difficult match for Ray from this point with Benitez making Ray miss often. �It was like looking in a mirror,� Leonard later said. In the 6th round the fighters clashed heads and a cut was open on Benitez forehead. It wasn't until the championship rounds that Ray began to take over the fight. In the 11th Ray knocked out Benitez mouthpiece, in the 15th a strong uppercut sent the champion to the canvas. Although Benitez got up the referee stopped the fight after two more punches. Ray Leonard was the new Welterweight Champion of the world.

When Ray Leonard faced challenger and all time great lightweight champion Roberto Duran, Ray was undefeated in 27 professional fights. Duran, a living legend amongst boxing fans, came into the contest with an impressive record of 71-1.

In his first fight with the Panamanian superstar Leonard was forced to fight much of the battle at close quarters. Duran, pushed, shoved and mauled Leonard to the ropes. Duran had the edge, hurting Leonard early in the second round with a right hand, left hook combination from the outside. After that Leonard elected to fight inside with Duran, which was just Roberto's game. Surprisingly to many Leonard fought very well in this type of battle. They fought at an extremely fast pace, Duran averaging a whopping 92 punches a round in this classic war. The final scorecards were 145-144, 146-144, and 148-147 in favor of Duran. Leonard earned more respect in this defeat that in all of his other victories put together to this time.

It was rumored that Duran allowed himself to live the high life and became grossly out of shape after his victory over Ray. Leonard forced an immediate rematch exercising his rights under their contractual agreement. The rematch turned out to be an embarrassment as Ray boxed and moved more effectively. In the 8th round Duran signaled he did not want to continue, saying �No Mas, No Mas.� Leonard regained his title although the fight and Duran�s reasons for quitting remain controversial.

Next up for Ray was his fight with unbeaten Ayub Kalule, World Jr. Middleweight Champion. Kalule gave Leonard a tough fight that was closely contested, but in round 9, Leonard connected a huge right to the chin that sent Kalule down. Leonard had captured his second divisional title.

There was only one big fight left for Ray at welterweight. Leonard was the WBC and linear Welterweight boxing champion. But the WBA champion was Thomas Hearns. Hearns was 32-0, with 30 knockouts. At 6�1� he was very tall for a welterweight and he knew how to maximize his leverage to put tremendous power into his punches. He won his title by starching Mexican slugger Pipino Cuevas in two rounds. Hearns because of his superiority in height, reach and presumed greater punching power was a 6 � -5 favorite. It was a match up that fans clamored for.

Tommy Hearns controlled the fight with his long jab for the first 5 rounds. By the 3rd round Ray�s eye was developing a mouse. Then in the 6th Leonard turned Tiger changing his style becoming aggressive and demonstrating that he had power of his own ripping a double left hook under and over that had Tommy in serious trouble. In the 7th Leonard battered Hearns from pillar to post. The roles were now reversed with Leonard stalking Hearns the prey had become the predator.

In the 9th Hearns began to box and use his jab from the outside. Ray�s left eye was swelling badly. After 12 rounds Hearns had a clear edge in points. It was during the moment between rounds 12 and 13 that Leonard's trainer, Angelo Dundee, said the now famous words of �You're blowing it, son! You're blowing it.� In the 13th Leonard exploded pounding Hearns and nearly knocking him through the ropes. In the 14th Leonard was determined to finish his badly hurt opponent and did so with a flurry of punches to the head and body. Hearns was offering no resistance against the ropes when Ref Davey Pearl finally stopped the contest. Ray Leonard was undisputed Welterweight Champion of the World. Ray Leonard proved that he was as sweet as Sugar and a worthy successor to the title of �Sugar Ray�.

After defending the title just once more it would be discovered that Leonard was suffering from a detached retina. After having surgery to repair the damage to Leonard's eye he retired from boxing in 1982. He would fight only once more in the next 5 years before making the most unlikely of comebacks.

In November 1983 Ray did the color commentary for the Marvin Hagler � Roberto Duran middleweight championship bout. Leonard revealed after the fight that he noticed Hagler could be hit with lead rights, and that he wasn't nearly as effective when he had to play the role of the aggressor for an entire fight. Frank Lotierzo wrote, "It is interesting that in the only two title fights where Hagler was forced to go the distance, against Duran and Leonard, he was forced to fight as the aggressor the entire fight."

On April 6, 1987 Ray Leonard was a 3-1 underdog against the undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler. 46 of 50 boxing experts polled picked Hagler to win, virtually all of those picked Hagler by knockout.

They were all wrong! Leonard demonstrated that he learned his lessons from the Duran fight well, as he proved that Marvin was not truly adept at cutting off the ring. Marvin simply followed Ray around instead of stepping in front of him to cut off his escape. Leonard avoided Hagler�s right hand and boxed a smart fight. Ray swept the early rounds on the official cards building an early lead. By dancing, moving and controlling ring center Ray was the superior ring general who fought the only fight he could and did so effectively enough to win. Leonard did not just throw pitty-pat punches as some critics� claim. Hagler was not able to just walk through Leonard's punches. The fact is Hagler was not able to maintain a sustained attack as Leonard confounded him, out boxed him and continually beat him to the punch.

Leonard won a close, but deserved split �decision to become the Middleweight Champion of the world, making him a legitimate Triple Crown champion. Jim Murray writing in the LA Times said, �He just didn�t outpoint Hagler, he exposed him. He made him look like a guy chasing a bus. In snow.� Sports Illustrated called Ray Leonard�s victory over Marvin Hagler �his finest hour.�

Leonard would retire and un-retire several more times, winning a version of the light-heavyweight title against Donnie Lalonde, beating Roberto Duran for the middleweight title after Roberto�s stunning victory over Iran Barkley, drawing with Thomas Hearns in their rematch and eventually losing to Terry Norris and in his last fight at age 40 to Hector Camacho.

Ray Leonard was rated by Ring magazine as the # 3 all time welterweight in their 1996 All Time Divisional Ratings, among the 20 greatest fighters of all time in 2000 and among the 10 best fighters of the last 80 years in 2002. The IBRO (International Boxing Research Organization) rated Leonard as the # 2 welterweight of all time in their 2005 member poll.

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