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Sugar Ray Leonard

February 28, 2012 by staff 

Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Leonard (born May 17, 1956) is an American retired professional boxer and occasional actor. He was named Ray Charles Leonard, after his mother’s favorite singer, Ray Charles. Leonard was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses, and won world titles in five weight divisions and defeating future fellow International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees Wilfred Ben?tez, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Dur?n and Marvin Hagler. Leonard was named “Boxer of the Decade” for the 1980s.
Leonard, the fifth of seven children, was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina to Cicero and Getha Leonard. He grew up in Wilmington, N.C. When he was three, the family moved to Washington, D.C. When he was ten, they settled permanently in Palmer Park, Maryland. His father worked as a supermarket night manager, his mother was a nurse.

Leonard was a shy child, and aside from the time he nearly drowned in a creek during a Seat Pleasant flood, his childhood was uneventful. He stayed home a lot, reading comic books and playing with his dog. “He never did talk too much,” his mother said. “We never could tell what he was thinking. But I never had any problems with him. I never had to go to school once because of him.”

Leonard started boxing at the Palmer Park recreation center in 1969. His older brother Roger started boxing first. Roger helped start the boxing program, urging the center’s director, Ollie Dunlap to form a team. Dave Jacobs, a former boxer, and Janks Morton volunteered as boxing coaches. Roger won some trophies and showed them off in front of Ray, goading him to start boxing.

In 1972, Leonard boxed in the featherweight quarterfinals of the National AAU Tournament, losing by decision to Jerome Artis. It was his first defeat. Later that year, he boxed in the Eastern Olympic Trials. The rules stated that a boxer had to be seventeen to box in international competition, so Leonard, only sixteen, lied about his age. He made it to the lightweight semifinals, losing a disputed decision to Greg Whaley, who took such a beating that he wasn’t allowed to continue in the trials. Whaley never boxed again.

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