Sugar Ray Leonard Unisex T-Shirt
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Sugar Ray Leonard – The Complete Career Documentary
Ray Charles Leonard (born May 17, 1956), best known as “Sugar” Ray Leonard, is an American former professional boxer, motivational speaker, and occasional actor. Often regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, he competed from 1977 to 1997, winning world titles in five weight divisions; the lineal championship in three weight divisions; as well as the undisputed welterweight title. Leonard was part of “The Fabulous Four”, a group of boxers who all fought each other throughout the 1980s, consisting of Leonard, Roberto Durán, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler.
“The Fabulous Four” created a wave of popularity in the lower weight classes that kept boxing relevant in the post–Muhammad Ali era, during which Leonard defeated future fellow International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees Hearns, Durán, Hagler, and Wilfred Benítez. Leonard was also the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses, and was named “Boxer of the Decade” in the 1980s. The Ring magazine named him Fighter of the Year in 1979 and 1981, while the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) named him Fighter of the Year in 1976, 1979, and 1981. In 2002, Leonard was voted by The Ring as the ninth greatest fighter of the last 80 years; In 2016, he was voted by The Ring to be the greatest living fighter; and BoxRec ranks him as the 23rd greatest boxer of all time, pound for pound.
Sugar Ray Leonard Highlights
Early professional career
When Leonard decided to turn professional, Janks Morton introduced him to Mike Trainer, a friend of his who was an attorney. Trainer talked 24 of his friends and clients into underwriting Leonard’s career with an investment of $21,000 to be repaid within four years at 8% interest. Trainer then made Leonard the sole stockholder in Sugar Ray Leonard, Inc. Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali‘s trainer, was brought in to be Leonard’s trainer and manager. Many of the people being considered wanted absolute control and a cut somewhere near the manager’s traditional 33%. Dundee had a different proposition. Although he would prescribe the training procedures, he would leave the day-to-day work to Dave Jacobs and Janks Morton. He would also choose Leonard’s opponents. For his services, Dundee would get 15% of Leonard’s purse.
Leonard made his professional debut on February 5, 1977 before a crowd of 10,270 at the Civic Center in Baltimore. He was paid $40,044 for the fight. His opponent was Luis “The Bull” Vega, whom he defeated by a six-round unanimous decision. After the fight, Leonard paid back his $21,000 loan to the investors.
In his fourteenth professional fight, Leonard fought his first world-ranked opponent, Floyd Mayweather, who was ranked seventeenth. The fight took place on September 9, 1978. Leonard won by a tenth-round knockout. A month later, Leonard defeated his old amateur nemesis Randy Shields by a ten-round unanimous decision.
On August 12, 1979, Leonard knocked out Pete Ranzany in four rounds to win the NABF Welterweight Championship. The following month, he made his first title defense against Andy Price. Price, an up-and-coming contender who was sponsored by Marvin Gaye, had a reputation for prolonged bouts in earlier fights and was believed by sports reporters to defeat or give a long fight to Leonard. Although Price landed multiple good blows, Leonard knocked him out in the first round, advancing his record to 25–0 with 16 knockouts.
First world title
Leonard vs. Benitez
Leonard fought Wilfred Benítez for the WBC Welterweight Championship on November 30, 1979, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. There was a capacity crowd of about 4,600. Leonard received $1 million and Benitez, a two-division champion with a record of 38–0–1, received $1.2 million.
It was a highly competitive and tactical battle. In the first round, Leonard rocked Benitez with a left hook that came off a jab and right cross. Late in the third, Leonard dropped Benitez on the seat of his pants with a stiff left jab. More embarrassed than hurt, Benitez got up quickly. Benitez started improving in the fourth, slipping numerous punches and finding the range with his right hand. “I wasn’t aware I was in a championship early because I hit him so easy”, Leonard said. “But then he adjusted to my style. It was like looking in a mirror”.
In the sixth, there was an accidental clash of heads, which opened a cut on the forehead of Benitez. Blood flowed down his forehead and the bridge of his nose but stayed out of his eyes.
Leonard landed the harder punches and had Benitez hurt several times late in the fight, but Leonard couldn’t put him away. Benitez was very slick. “No one, I mean no one, can make me miss punches like that”, Leonard said.
Going into the final round, Leonard led by scores of 137–130, 137–133, and 136–134. The two went toe-to-toe in the fifteenth. Late in the round, Leonard dropped Benitez with a left. He got up, but after a few more punches, the referee stopped the fight. The time was 2:54 of round fifteen.
Leonard vs. Green
Leonard made his first title defense in Landover, Maryland, on March 31, 1980. His opponent was Dave “Boy” Green. The British challenger had a record of 33–2. In the fourth round, Leonard knocked Green out with a devastating left hook. Leonard called it “the hardest single punch I ever threw.”
The Brawl in Montreal
On June 20, 1980, Leonard returned to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to defend his title against Roberto Durán before a crowd of 46,317. Durán, the former Undisputed World Lightweight Champion for 6+1⁄2 years, had a record of 71–1 and was the #1 welterweight contender and considered the best “Pound for Pound” fighter in the world. Durán received $1.5 million and Leonard, working for a percentage of the closed-circuit gate as well as a guarantee, received over $9 million.
Angelo Dundee counseled Leonard to box, to move side to side and not to get caught on the ropes. However, Leonard decided to fight Durán’s way. “Flat-footed”, he said. “I will not run.”
Durán forced the issue and took the fight to Leonard, cutting off the ring and denying Leonard space to fight his fight. Durán attacked at almost every turn. Leonard battled back again and again, but he had to work just to find room to breathe and swing, at times simply to survive. In the second, Durán rocked Leonard with a left hook, sending him into the ropes. Leonard started to do better by the fifth round, finding some punching room and throwing numerous multi-punch combinations. The two fought with great intensity throughout the fight. According to Bill Nack:
It was, from almost the opening salvo, a fight that belonged to Durán. The Panamanian seized the evening and gave it what shape and momentum it had. He took control, attacking and driving Leonard against the ropes, bulling him back, hitting him with lefts and rights to the body as he maneuvered the champion against the ropes from corner to corner. Always moving forward, he mauled and wrestled Leonard, scoring inside with hooks and rights. For three rounds Durán drove at Sugar Ray with a fury, and there were moments when it seemed the fight could not last five. Unable to get away, unable to counter and unable to slide away to open up the ring, Leonard seemed almost helpless under the assault. Now and then he got loose and countered—left-right-left to Durán’s bobbing head—but he missed punches and could not work inside, could not jab, could not mount an offense to keep Durán at bay.
Durán was awarded a unanimous decision, although it was mistakenly read as a majority decision in the ring. The scorecard of judge Angelo Poletti was incorrectly added and announced as 147–147. He actually scored it 148–147. In rounds, he had it three for Durán, two for Leonard, and ten even. Sports Illustrated called his scorecard “a monument to indecision.” Judges Raymond Baldeyrou and Harry Gibbs scored the fight 146–144 and 145–144, respectively. Associated Press had it 144–141 for Durán, while The New York Times had Leonard ahead 144–142.
“I did the best I could”, Leonard said. “I think I pretty much fought from the heart.” Asked if Leonard was the best he ever fought, Durán thought for a moment and then answered, “Si, si.” Durán said. “He does have a heart. That’s why he’s living.”
“No Más” in New Orleans
The rematch, billed as “Stone vs. Sugar.. Once Again”, took place November 25, 1980 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans in front of 25,038 fans. Leonard received $7 million and Durán received $8 million.
Dave Jacobs disagreed with the decision to have an immediate rematch with Durán and terminated his relationship with Leonard when the rematch was made. “My idea is that he should have a tuneup fight before he fights with Roberto again”, Jacobs said. “I think he won the fight with Durán, but I don’t think it is healthy for him to be fighting Durán right away”.
After the Montreal fight Durán went on a partying binge and ballooned in weight. Leonard was aware of this, and in an interview for Beyond the Glory he said: “My intention was to fight Durán ASAP because I knew Durán’s habits. I knew he would indulge himself, he’d gain 40–50 lbs and then sweat it off to make 147.” Unlike the fight in Montreal, Leonard used his superior speed and movement to outbox and befuddle Durán. “The whole fight, I was moving, I was moving”, Leonard said. “And Voom! I snapped his head back with a jab. Voom! I snapped it back again. He tried to get me against the ropes, I’d pivot, spin off and Pow! Come under with a punch.”
In round seven, Leonard started to taunt Durán. Leonard’s most memorable punch came late in the round. Winding up his right hand, as if to throw a bolo punch, Leonard snapped out a left jab and caught Durán flush in the face. “It made his eyes water”, Leonard said. He continued to taunt Durán mercilessly. He stuck out his chin, inviting Durán to hit it. Durán hesitated. Leonard kept it up, continuing to move, stop, and mug.
In the closing seconds of the eighth round, Durán turned his back to Leonard and quit, saying to referee Octavio Meyran, “No Más” (English: “No more”). Leonard was the winner by a technical knockout at 2:44 of round eight, regaining the WBC Welterweight Championship. Leonard led by scores of 68–66, 68–66 and 67–66.
Durán said he quit because of stomach cramps, caused by overeating after the weigh-in. “At the end of the fifth round, I got cramps in my stomach and it kept getting worse and worse”, Duran later said. “I felt weaker and weaker in my body and arms.” He then announced, “I am retiring from boxing right now.” During the night Durán was admitted to a hospital with stomach pains, and discharged the following day.
Everyone was surprised by Durán’s actions, none more so than his veteran trainers, Freddie Brown and Ray Arcel. “I was shocked”, Brown said. “There was no indication that he was in pain or getting weak.” Arcel was angry. “That’s it”, he said. “I’ve had it. This is terrible. I’ve handled thousands of fighters and never had anyone quit on me. I think he needs a psychiatrist more than he needs anything else.” Durán’s manager, Carlos Eleta, said, “Durán didn’t quit because of stomach cramps. He quit because he was embarrassed. I know this.” According to Randy Gordon, who witnessed Durán’s antics beforehand and was in his dressing room immediately afterwards, Durán quit because of his huge eating binge prior to the fight.
“I made him quit”, Leonard said. “To make a man quit, to make Roberto Durán quit, was better than knocking him out.”
Second world title
Leonard vs. Bonds
On March 28, 1981, Leonard defended his title against Larry Bonds, the WBC sixth-ranked contender, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Bonds was a southpaw, which made him a good opponent for Leonard, given that his next opponent was scheduled to be the WBA Light Middleweight Champion Ayub Kalule, a southpaw.
Leonard was the aggressor throughout, with Bonds circling the ring. He staggered Bonds with a right in the fourth round and dropped him with a follow-up combination. Bonds got up and continued to move, with Leonard in pursuit. Leonard dropped him again in the tenth. Bonds rose but Leonard didn’t let him off the hook. The referee stopped the fight with Bonds taking punishment in a corner.
Leonard vs. Kalule
Leonard moved up to the junior middleweight division and faced Kalule on June 25, 1981 at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. Kalule, who was 36–0, had been the WBA Light Middleweight Champion for two years.
Kalule and his handlers had expected Leonard to use lateral movement against him, but Leonard chose to fight inside instead. After eight tough rounds, Leonard was ahead although Kalule appeared to be coming on strong in the eight and ninth. Leonard finally hurt him with a right to the head. Shortly afterward, Leonard dropped him with a flurry of punches. Kalule got up but the referee waved it off. Leonard celebrated his victory with a full 360-degree, no-hands flip. Despite an official stoppage time of 2.59, the fight was actually stopped at 3.06 into the round, meaning Kalule should have been saved by the bell.
Promoted as “The Showdown“, Leonard fought Thomas Hearns on September 16, 1981 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to unify the World Welterweight Championship in a scheduled fifteen-rounder. They fought before a live crowd of 23,618. Hearns was paid $5.1 million, and Leonard made over $11 million. The fight grossed over $35 million. The live gate was $5.9 million, and the revenue from pay-per-view was $7.5 million.
Hearns, 32–0 with 30 knockouts, won the WBA Welterweight Championship in 1980, scoring a second-round knockout of José “Pipino” Cuevas in Detroit, Michigan. He made three successful title defenses, stopping Luis Primera, Randy Shields, and Pablo Baez.
The fight began as expected, Leonard boxing from a distance and Hearns stalking. Leonard had difficulty with Hearns’ long reach and sharp jab. By the end of round five, Leonard had a growing swelling under his left eye, and Hearns had built a considerable lead on the scorecards. Leonard, becoming more aggressive, hurt Hearns in the sixth with a left hook to the chin. Leonard battered Hearns in rounds six and seven, but Hearns regrouped. Hearns started to stick and move, and he started to pile up points again. The roles reversed: Leonard became the stalker and Hearns became the boxer. The fight billed as a classic showdown between a powerful knockout artist and the best boxer/puncher the welterweight division had seen in decades devolved into a tactical and boring fight.
Hearns won rounds nine through twelve on all three scorecards. Between rounds twelve and thirteen, Angelo Dundee told Leonard, “You’re blowing it, son! You’re blowing it!”.
Leonard, with a badly swollen left eye, came out roaring for the thirteenth round. After hurting Hearns with a right, Leonard exploded with a combination of punches. Hearns’ legs were clearly gone and after more pressure from Leonard he was bundled through the ropes, no knockdown was given as it wasn’t a punch that sent him there. Hearns managed to rise, but was dropped by a flurry of hard punches near the end of the round.
In round fourteen, after staggering Hearns with an overhand right, Leonard pinned Hearns against the ropes, where he unleashed another furious combination, prompting referee Davey Pearl to stop the contest and award Sugar Ray Leonard the Unified World Welterweight Championship. Hearns was leading by scores of 124–122, 125–122, and 125–121.
After the fight, there was controversy due to the scoring of rounds six and seven. Even though Leonard dominated, hurting Hearns and battering him, all three judges gave both rounds to Leonard by a 10–9 margin. Many felt that the ten-point must scoring system was not properly used and those rounds should have been scored 10–8. Some also considered the stoppage premature. Veteran ringside commentator Don Dunphy said “They’re stopping the fight. I don’t believe it. Hearns was ahead on points.” However, Emanuel Steward, Hearns’ manager and trainer, said, “I felt that the referee was justified in stopping the fight … Tommy did not have enough energy to make it through the fight.”
The fight was named “Fight of the Year” by The Ring. Leonard was named “Fighter of the Year” by The Ring and The Boxing Writers Association of America. He was also named “Athlete of the Year” by ABC‘s Wide World of Sports and “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated.
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