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Sugar Ray Leonard

Growing And Gaining

Still growing taller, at age twenty-five Leonard considered a move into the junior middleweight class, where the weight limits ranged over 147 pounds. After a bout with Harry Bonds of Denver in Syracuse, New York, in March 1981 Leonard went against Ajub Kalube, who at 154 pounds was the WBA junior middleweight champion. On June 21 Kalube lost his title to Leonard by a TKO in the ninth round at the Houston Astrodome.

Sugar Ray Leonard, left

Leonard's next fight was a two-way title bout against Thomas Hearns. The contenders—Leonard and Hearns—were long-time rivals, with Hearns holding claim to the WBA welterweight title and Leonard wearing the WBC belt. Leonard was rated the favorite, with 8-5 odds when the contract was signed. At age twenty-two, however, Hearns was three inches taller and three years younger than the 5-foot-10-inch Leonard. By fight night, Hearns went into the arena as a 7-5 favorite.

Before a capacity crowd of 25,000 at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, on September 16, 1981, the two boxers battled through thirteen full rounds. Leonard went into the fight with one sore eye, only to have it throttled by Hearns until it was swollen shut. Miraculously, Leonard summoned an untapped reserve in the final rounds. Fourteen seconds into the fourteenth round, he wore down Hearns and won the fight in a TKO. In accomplishing the defeat, Leonard successfully unified the welterweight championship belts and earned a prize purse of more than $10 million. Indeed, the loser's share alone topped more than $5 million, which combined with Leonard's take totaled the richest purse in prize-fight history at that time.

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Famous Sports StarsBoxingSugar Ray Leonard Biography - Chronology, Olympic Glory, Awards And Accomplishments, 'everything I Did Worked', Ringside Politics, Where Is He Now? - CONTACT INFORMATION