He won the gold medal in light welterweight boxing in the 1976 Olympic Games, and went professional the next year. His 1987 defeat of “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler for the World Boxing Council’s middleweight title is regarded as among the best professional boxing matches ever. Leonard retired in 1997, and was inducted to the Boxing Hall of Fame.
The fifth of Gertha and Cicero Leonard’s seven kids, he was named after his mom’s favourite singer, Ray Charles.
Leonard grew up in a loving home, where financing were generally tight. His father earned a living as a night supervisor in a supermarket, while Gertha was employed as a nurse.
For Leonard, life was frequently rough—as a kid, he watched lives around him wasted by crime and violence. Leonard, nevertheless, was determined to not succumb to his environment.
As an athlete, Leonard was just marginal at team sports. His life would not ever be the same again.
Leonard shortly became obsessed with boxing, and with perfecting his abilities in the sport. “For some reason, I needed it to so poor,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1979. “I felt it in me, and I needed to keep going.”
Moreover, he was ready to understand. In 1973, the fruits of his work began to pay off.
“When I first began, I used to fight like Joe Frazier,” Leonard once said. “I ‘d come in low, bob and weave, and that I knocked out many men like this. I straightened out when I saw Muhammad Ali, once I started examining Sugar Ray Robinson.” Leonard’s fear for Robinson ran so heavy that he finally took the nickname “Sugar Ray,” which stuck.
Leonard had no strategies for being an expert fighter; he’d expected to cash in on his Olympic success, and never step back in the ring again. But family stresses, including both of his parents becoming sick, pushed his hand, and not long following the Games, he began fighting again.
As a professional, Leonard matched precisely the same success he had had as an amateur fighter. In November 1979, he won the World Boxing Council’s welterweight title, and over the following ten years, he fought in a few of boxing’s most memorable fights, winning almost all of these. His successes included wins over Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns.
Leonard retired in 1984, but a number of years after, in 1987, stepped back to the ring to upset “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler for the middleweight crown. To this very day, the ’87 Leonard Hagler fight is widely regarded as among the best fights in boxing history.
Leonard retired from boxing for good in 1997, completing his professional boxing career using a 36-3-1 record and 25 knockouts. After that year, he was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
The exact same year, he released his memoir The Big Fight: My Life In and From the Ring. He’s also active in philanthropy through the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation, which he created in 2009 along with his wife Bernadette. The corporation raises funds for juvenile diabetes research and encourages knowledge in regards to the medical condition.