“Sugar” Ray Leonard Followed in the Footsteps of “Sugar” Ray Robinson
By: Ken Hissner
The greatest pound for pound fighter in boxing, “Sugar” Ray Robinson, was 85-0 (69) as an amateur with possible 2 losses under his given name of Walker Smith, Jr. His record was 174-19-6 (109) as a pro holding both Welterweight and Middleweight titles with a career spanning 1940-1965. His only stoppage defeat was challenging for the Light Heavyweight title against Joey Maxim when the outdoor heat got the best of him after thirteen rounds though ahead on all scorecards.
Robinson was trained by Soldier Jones, Harry Wiley and Pee Wee Beale. His managers were Curt Horrmann and George Gainsford. His residence was in Harlem, NY, while being born Vidalia, GA, in May of 1931. His death was in April of 1989 at age 67. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1981 and the IBHOF in 1990.
“Sugar” Ray Leonard was the modern day best pound for pound boxer in this writer’s opinion from 1977-1997 after winning the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal. At Olympics he defeated boxers from Sweden, Soviet Union, Great Britain, E. Germany, Poland (reversing a 1974 loss in Poland) & Cuba. He won the 1975 Pan Am Gold Medal. His amateur record was 145-5 (75) and inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985.
After the 1976 Olympics Leonard announced he was retiring from boxing. He planned to go to the University of Maryland. However, when his mother suffered a heart attack and his father was stricken by meningitis and tuberculosis, Leonard decided to turn professional to make money for his family.
As a professional Leonard held the WBC & WBA Welterweight, WBA Light Middleweight, WBC Middleweight, WBC Super Middleweight and WBC Light Heavyweight Titles. Inducted into the IBHOF 1997.
Leonard’s biggest professional wins were over Wilfred Benitez (Welter Champ), Roberto Duran (2 out of 3) (Welter), Thomas Hearns (also a draw) Welter champ, Ayub Kalule Jr Middle champ, Marvin Hagler Middle champ and Donny Lalonde Super Middle and Light Heavyweight champ.
Leonard won his first twenty-seven fights including winning the WBC World Welterweight Title in November of 1979. He defeated Dave “Boy” Green in his first defense before losing to Duran in a WBC Welterweight title defense in June of 1980. In November he won the title back from Duran. He made four defenses at welterweight.
Leonard stopped Ayub Kalule who was 36-0 for the WBA World Super Welterweight title in June of 1981 but never defended the title. Three months after a February 1982 title defense of his WBA and WBC title’s defense against Bruce Finch, 28-3-1, it was discovered Leonard had a detached retina. He wouldn’t return to the ring until May of 1984 (27 months) defeating Kevin Howard, 20-4-1, after coming off the canvas.
Leonard didn’t fight again for thirty-five months returning to the ring in April of 1987 to defeat WBC World Middleweight champion “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, 62-2-2, for his WBC World Middleweight title by split decision putting Hagler into permanent retirement.
In November 1987 Leonard moved up to win the WBC World Super Middleweight and WBC World Light Heavyweight titles from Donny Lalonde, 31-2. In June of 1989 he defended his WBC World Super Middleweight title with a draw in his rematch with Hearns, 46-3.
In December of 1989 in Leonard’s third fight with Duran he defended his WBC World Super Middleweight title for the second time with a decision win.
It would be fourteen months in February of 1991 when Leonard returned to the ring dropping back to Super Welterweight losing to WBC World Champion “Terrible” Terry Norris by decision. After six years and a month Leonard came back again losing by stoppage for the lone time in his career to Hector “Macho” Camacho, 62-3-1, in the fifth round. Camacho’s IBC Middleweight title was at stake. Leonard finished his professional career with a 36-3-1 (25) record.
Among his trainers were Angelo Dundee, Dave Jacobs, Janks Morton, Pepe Correa and Adrian Davis. His lone manager was Mike Trainer.
In became a HBO commentator from 1978 to 1990. From 2001 to 2004 he had a promotional company, SRL Boxing. In 2004 he became the host of the boxing reality series The Contender. He was born in May of 1956 in Wilmington, NC, and resided in Palmer Park, MD, throughout his boxing career.