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Sugar Ray Leonard Biography

Chronology, Olympic Glory, Awards And Accomplishments, 'everything I Did Worked', Ringside Politics, Where Is He Now?CONTACT INFORMATION


American boxer

Olympic gold medallist Sugar Ray Leonard generated broad interest in the sport of boxing during the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 1981 he beat Thomas Hearns for the unification of the WBC and WBA world welterweight titles, winning a prize purse of more than $10 million. It was an unprecedented sum for a welter-weight bout, in a sport where the spoils of fame rested traditionally with heavyweight fighters, to the exclusion of most others.

Sugar Ray Leonard was born Ray Charles Leonard in Wilmington, North Carolina, on May 17, 1956. The fifth of seven children of Cicero and Getha Leonard, he was named for singer Ray Charles. In Wilmington, Leonard's father worked in a soda pop plant, and his mother was a nursing assistant. When Leonard was four the family

Sugar Ray Leonard

moved to Washington, D.C., where they rented an apartment on Avenue L. Seven years later they moved to Seat Pleasant, Maryland, and in 1968 Leonard's parents purchased a home on Barlowe Road in nearby Palmer Park. Ray, the youngest of the five Leonard boys, was also the least aggressive. He seemed shy by nature, a fact that was perhaps aggravated by the family's frequent moves during his formative years.

When in 1970 the community of Palmer Park built a youth recreation center, Leonard frequented the new facility after school. There, under the guidance of a volunteer coach, David Jacobs, Leonard and other neighborhood boys learned the fine points of pugilism (boxing). Although the program lacked funding, Jacobs marked off an imaginary boxing ring with colored tape in the middle of the gymnasium at the recreation center. He assembled his would-be amateur boxing squad at five a.m. daily for a conditioning run, and worked with the boys in the imaginary boxing ring after school.

Leonard overall had little interest in athletics or in any other pursuit prior to joining Jacobs's boxing group. Aside from a brief foray with the wrestling squad at his junior high school, he had participated minimally in cross-country and in track and field. By the time his voice dropped at age fourteen, Leonard had abandoned even his participation in the church choir. To the surprise of many who knew the shy boy, he had a natural flair for boxing. After becoming involved with Jacobs, Leonard focused squarely on boxing to the exclusion of all else during his four years at Parkdale High School in Palmer Park.

With guidance from Jacobs, Leonard participated in amateur boxing matches sponsored by the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). He gained twenty-five pounds during his first year of competition. After winning a bout against the top amateur boxer in his region, Leonard entered competition at the national level, winning the Golden Gloves lightweight title at age sixteen in 1972. He appeared in the AAU national quarterfinals that year, and competed internationally with that group.


Address: c/o IMG New York, 825 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10019. Fax: (310) 471-1410. Phone: (310) 471-3100. Email: Ray@SRLBoxing.com. Online: sugar-rayleonard.com.

Sketch by G. Cooksey

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Famous Sports StarsBoxing