Sugar Ray Leonard is a retired professional boxer who has a boxing record of 36 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw. Leonard was the first ever boxer to win more than a hundred million dollars in purses, owing to his world titles in five separate weight divisions and high profile fights with Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Durán.
Sugar Ray Leonard was born on May 17, 1956 as Ray Charles Leonard in North Carolina. His parents, Cicero and Getha Leonard, moved to Washington when Ray was three and then to Maryland when Ray was ten. Ray almost drowned at a creek by his house a few years after moving, and he also survived a car wreck with his mother while he was still in his pre-teens. In his autobiography, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring”, Ray also mentions problems at home, including alcohol abuse and domestic violence. He mentioned being sexually abused by an unnamed ‘prominent Olympic coach’ when he was fifteen years old. The revelation shocked the sporting world as most people believed Ray had a reasonably uneventful childhood.
Ray was ‘goaded’ into boxing by his brother Roger, who started boxing as a teenager. At the age of thirteen, Ray started training with Dave Jacobs and Ollie Dunlap at the Palmer Park Recreation Center. By the age of fifteen, Ray was already fighting in the National Division of the Amateur Athletic Union as an Amateur Boxer. A year later, he lied about his age so that he could take part in the Eastern Olympic Trials, where he made it to the semi-finals of the lightweight division. Ray lost that semi-final to a controversial decision, as it was said that Ray’s opponent, Greg Whaley, was hit so many times in that match that he was not allowed to continue in the trials. Ray then went on to win the National Golden Gloves and the National Amateur Athletic Union Light Welterweight Championship in 1974. In 1976, Ray represented the United States Olympic Boxing team along with Howard Davis, John Tate, the Spinks Brothers, Leo Randolph and Charles Mooney. Leonard won the Olympic Boxing Gold Medal after defeating Andrés Aldama in the light welterweight category, after which he ended his amateur career with a fabulous 145-5 record.
Ray decided to enter professional boxing after a flurry of financial difficulties as his mother was being treated for a heart attack and his father for meningitis. He was also fathering a child with his teenage girlfriend and later wife Juanita Wilkinson. Ray came up with a plan with Mike Trainer to get him proper training and management with Angelo Dundee, who formerly trained Muhammad Ali. By his thirteenth professional fight, Ray fought with his first world ranked opponent Floyd Mayweather (father of the now famous Floyd Mayweather Jr.), who he defeated. In 1979, he had won the NABF Welterweight Championship.
Sugar Ray Leonard won his first WBC Welterweight title at Caesar’s Palace in 1979 against Wilfred Benítez. His first professional defeat was against Roberto Durán for his Welterweight Title, but he won it back in a rematch. Ray then fought against Ayub Kalule for his second world title. He won the unified World Welterweight Championship against Thomas Hearns during what most will remember as the peak of his career. Ray defended the title against Bruce Finch; however, he soon decided to retire from boxing as he had to undergo corrective eye surgery for detached retina. He came out of retirement thrice, once to fight Marvelous Marvin Hagler, once to fight Don Lalonde and once to fight Héctor Camacho. He ended his professional career with 36 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw; 2 of his losses came after his first retirement.