Retired American boxer Ray Charles Leonard was born on May 17, 1956 in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S.A. He faired well during his amateur career, having only 5 losses. The 20-year old boxer won a gold medal for the United States for boxing in the 1876 Montreal Olympics Games when he defeated Cuban Andres Aldama. After the Olympics where he had his 145th victory, Leonard announced that he would not turn professional but instead retire from boxing.
When he needed money to support his father’s illness, Leonard was forced to turn professional. His debut was successful where he won over opponent Luis Vega. He was later known in his career as “Sugar Ray”. On August 1979, Leonard beat Pete Ranzany via KO for the NABF welterweight championship title. In that same year, he also defeated Andy Price.
By 1980, Sugar Ray undertook to fight Wilfred Benitez to become the WBC welterweight champion. In that same year, he experienced his first loss. Roberto Duran defeated Leonard and claimed the championship title. In a rematch during the latter part of 1980, a rematch was held between Leonard and Duran, however, much to everyone’s surprise, Duran returned to his corner and gave up during the 8th round.
The bout marketed as “The Showdown” was held in September 16, 1981 between Leonard and the undefeated Thomas Hearns. During the game, the left eye of Leonard swelled and closed yet he still managed to knock down Hearns during the 14th round.
On February, the year after the game, Leonard was diagnosed to have a detached retina in the same injured left eye. In November, he announced his retirement from boxing. However, in December 1983, he again announced his interest to return to the ring and box. His first comeback bout was successful, having knocked down his opponent Kevin Howard in the 4th round despite the fact that his right eye was surgically operated as well.
In 1986, Leonard once again announced that he would be playing his last game against middleweight champion Marvin Hagler. “The Superfight” was scheduled in Las Vegas on April 6, 1987, where even if Hagler was the favorite (4-1), the judges came up with a split decision declaring Leonard as champion. Hagler’s plea for a rematch was ignored by the retiree Leonard.
Sugar Ray, however managed his 3rd comeback in 1988 when he knocked down Don Lalonde in the 9th round, claiming 2 world titled for himself – Lalonde’s WBC light heavyweight and the WBC new middleweight championship. Leonard’s career in 1989 involved rematches with two of his past opponents. His fight with Hearns ended with a draw decision. Sugar also won in his 3rd rematch against Duran via a unanimous decision. In 1991, when he was knocked down by Terry Norris, Leonard again announced his intention to retire from boxing.