Sugar Ray Leonard
Everyone is familiar with the name Sugar Ray Leonard whether you’re a boxing fan or not. His epic fights, endorsements and the publicity that he received over the course of his fighting career made him the face of the sport throughout the 80’s.
He met up with countless high calibre contenders and managed to fight his way to the top against legends like Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. Other than stars like the great Cassius Clay, Leonard gave boxing some cache and it was throughout his time in the sport that the purses began to grow to match the incomes of other professional athletes.
Ironically, after his amateur victories and Olympic gold medal performance, Sugar Ray had his eye on education and did not intend to pursue a professional boxing career. He felt that he had accomplished what he had set out to achieve and released a statement after the Olympics stating he would not continue to fight. It was a personal challenge that led him back into the ring.
After impregnating his then-girlfriend, he was publicly pursued for support of the child, a responsibility he would have happily taken on without all the ensuing drama. The negative press implied that would not be the case and he consequentially was dropped as a spokesman in a number of product endorsement deals and was forced to tie on the gloves again to earn as a professional boxer. And many are indeed glad that he did as his career was one to watch.
Sugar Ray Leonard perfected the art of lightning fast moves, strategy and agility. He was a performer as well as a fighter and fans came out to watch the show as much as they did for the fight. His fancy footwork and multi-combo jabs would dazzle his opponents and in many victories, they hardly even saw him coming. In his fight with Duran, he used this technique to smack his way to victory and continued to do so with numerous others.
The Hagler-Leonard match was one of his most famous and going in, it was anyone’s fight. The pundits were divided in who they predicted would arise victorious, some feeling Leonard was outmatched and others believing the strength in his technique would overrule Hagler’s penchant for knockout punches. His skill did, in fact, end up snagging him a decision win. His “war” with Thomas Hearns was also the cause of much speculation amongst commentators and boxing experts and the two were well matched, with Leonard taking a late round victory in their first meet up and then drawing in their second.
Many new faces and talent rose in the sport and everyone wanted a crack at Leonard and for each one he took on, he would rack up another victory. Leonard enjoyed a stellar career in the ring, even though its professional beginning was based on a financial necessity. The suggestion through his amateur career that he was a glorified flash in the pan were proved false beyond the shadow of a doubt as he went on to become a boxing legend, earning more than preceding fighters at that time and changing the way the boxing world was perceived beyond their own tight community.
Although there were ups and downs in his personal life, including some indication of being a victim of sexual abuse, substance and alcohol abuse, Leonard beat them all and continues to enjoy life in the limelight through various media projects and charity endorsements.
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