By Shawn M. Murphy
Recently I interviewed 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist and former World Super Bantamweight Champ Leo Randolph. Randolph had a great amateur career, highlighted by a gold medal as part of the “Dream Team”, along with Leon and Michael Spinks, Sugar Ray Leonard and Howard Davis jr. Randolph won the WBA Super Bantamweight title in 1980, but lost it in his first defense. Randolph shockingly retired after that loss, and never returned to the ring again.
(SM) Mr. Randolph, a pleasure to talk to you.
Leo Randolph: Happy to speak to you.
(SM) At what age did you first take up boxing?
Leo Randolph: I started at age 9 with my cousin. We used to go to the gym and the coach told us to either get serious or leave. That’s when I got serious.
(SM) You had a great amateur career, 160-7. What was the highlight?
Leo Randolph: The Olympics naturally. That’s what I trained so hard for.
(SM) What do you remember most about those Olympics?
Leo Randolph: I think being in the Olympic Village with all the other athletes, that was great.
(SM) Do you keep in touch with any of your old Olympic teammates?
Leo Randolph: Yes, we email and speak by phone. In fact we are supposed to all have a reunion at the end of the year.
(SM) After the Olympics you did not turn pro until two years later, why?
Leo Randolph: For one I was still in High School. I also had no desire at that point to turn pro. The Olympics was the ultimate to me and I had no desire to do it all over again four years later. I did the feeling to box again later on.
(SM) You were 16-1 when you challenged Ricardo Cardona for the title. Give us your thoughts on that fight.
Leo Randolph: I was absolutely in the best shape of my life for that fight. I trained hard and feel blessed to have been given the opportunity.
(SM) You won the title via a 15 round TKO. Any opinion as to whether or not championship fights should be 12 or 15 rounds?
Leo Randolph: I like 12 rounds. 15 is just too long, and the punishment on the body is just too much.
(SM) After winning the title, what were your plans?
Leo Randolph: Winning was the ultimate. I had planned to hold on to the title for a long time. When you’re champion you never think about losing. I wish I would have thought more about finances and retirement plans, but I thought it would go on forever.
(SM) What happened in that first title defense against Palma?
Leo Randolph: It was weight and training issues. I was traveling all over to different cities doing interviews and celebrating the championship. I had less than two good weeks of solid training. I took the fight too lightly. I didn’t know anything about Palma. People from his camp came to my training sessions to watch me workout. They came in the ring with a plan. I had no defense for his offense.
(SM) After that fight, at age 22, you retired, never returning to the ring. Why?
Leo Randolph: I always told myself that if I was ever in a fight and had no control, I would quit! I pushed my body to the absolute limit. I did get that itch again later but it never materialized. I was training with Michael Spinks before his fight with Tyson. A comeback just never worked out.
(SM) What were the best and worst about being a champion?
Leo Randolph: The best is all the attention you get after working so hard for it. The title is the ultimate. The worst is once you get there, you have all these people coming at you. You have to deal with a lot of the politics of boxing. I was in court all the time, like the day before my fight with Palma.
(SM) Any regrets looking back now on your career?
Leo Randolph: Not really. Maybe before the Palma fight I would have done more, looked at more tapes. I would also try and implement school more so I could deal with the financial issues better.
(SM) What career path did you take after retiring from boxing?
Leo Randolph: I decided when I was young that I wanted to be a truck driver. So after boxing I went to school to become a professional. Looking back I would do more with education.
(SM) You have a son Leo Jr. Did he ever think of taking up boxing?
Leo Randolph: No not at all. He wanted to participate in basketball.
(SM) What hobbies/interests do you have today?
Leo Randolph: My main desire now is going to school. I also volunteer at a juvenile detention center as well.
(SM) I have read that in 2006 you got back together with a few of your Olympic teammates at the Boxing Hall of Fame. Who was there?
Leo Randolph: It was a great time! Howard Davis was there, Leon Spinks, Sugar Ray Leonard, Davey Armstrong, Chuck Walker, and Charles Mooney. We stayed up to early morning talking about old times, it was awesome.
(SM) And finally Leo is there anything else you want to mention?
Leo Randolph: I just wanted to recognize my former coach, Joe Clough. He was there from the beginning, for my amateur career and my pro career. He was like a father figure to me.
(SM) OK Leo, thanks for speaking with me.
Leo Randolph: Thanks for thinking of me.