Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard talks about his career, the Fab Four rivalry, and his experience with sexual abuse as a teenager.
Legendary Boxing Champ Leonard joined the Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer.
The Hall of Famer explains the difference between today’s fighters and fighters during his time.
Sugar Ray also talks about the significant fights that defined his career, including the rematch with Roberto Duran, the first fight with Thomas Hearns, and the controversial fight with Marvin Hagler.
The Olympic Gold Medalist shares his dark days of addiction to drugs and alcohol and being sexually abused by a former coach.
Leonard on the difference between today’s fighters to those in his prime:
“There’s so much talent out there, so much talent in that ring. They take it from a different perspective now because they do what’s best for them. I have no problem with that because eventually, you have to fight the champ.”
Leonard on the fights that defined his career:
“Wilfred Benitez, one of the most gifted fighters I’ve ever faced. I’ve never missed so many punches in my life, in my career. In fact, after the fight, I went to the hospital for dehydration because I beat him with more heart than anything.
The Duran fight was my first professional loss. I never experienced anyone who hit me that hard. He punches so hard, hit me so many times, in so many places. I looked around and said, who else is in the damn ring?
Tommy Hearns was a monster. He was the man. He brought so much out of me. And he made me reach down to that hidden reservoir of strength that we all have that we all can’t activate.”
Leonard on his rematch with Roberto Duran in 1980:
“I knew I could win because Roberto Duran taught me the power of the mind, of composure. He said things that would make me angry, made me so mad I said to myself, I’m going to beat him at his own game, I’m going to stand toe to toe with this guy. Was I nervous? Absolutely!
“Was I scared? I would say yes, did I believe I could win…yes! I had people laugh at him, embarrassed him, and that’s what happened.”
Leonard, on the first fight with Thomas Hearns in 1981
“Muhammad Ali said to me one day, “Ray, when I fought Joe Frazier for the third time, it was the closest thing to death.” It was like death. I didn’t know what he was talking about, and when I fought Tommy Hearns, it was the closest thing to death, like he said.”
Leonard, on the controversial fight with Marvin Hagler
“I trained my body for over a year and a half to prepare mentally, physically, spiritually for that fight, but I beat Hagler with my game plan…my mind. At the press conferences, I would say Hagler is a great boxer. He’s a better boxer than you guys give him credit for. He’s not just a slugger. He can do that too. After all the press conferences were over, maybe about 30 of them on tour, the last thing Hagler said is I might surprise all of you and outbox Ray. I said, “I got him!”
Leonard on when he became addicted to drugs and alcohol
“I think my last fight was in 82 when I was diagnosed with a partially detached retina. The doctor said we want to have surgery next week. I said, can we wait. He said no because if you wait any more than five days, you’ll go blind in that eye. I cried like a baby because I was in my twenties, and my career was over. Some friends had cocaine and said, Ray, you take a hit. You’ll forget everything. The first time I did that, I was hooked. Drinking, I didn’t drink to socialize. I drank to numb myself.”
In his autobiography, Leonard admits an Olympic coach as a teen sexually abused him.
“It was cathartic without question. It saved my life! I, especially when I drank alcohol, a lot of alcohol, would break down and cry. There are so many people out there dealing with what I’ve dealt with, and I felt it was my duty to talk about it, let people know it does happen.”
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