Big Fight Sugar Ray Leonard
One of the most
prodigious pugilists of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard was
born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on May 17, 1956 to
Cicero and Getha Leonard. The fifth of seven kids, his
family moved to Washington, DC in 1959 before settling
down seven years later in Palmer Park, Maryland where
his father was employed as a supermarket night manager
and his mother as a nurse.
Though shy as a
young child, Ray followed his brother Roger’s footsteps
into boxing, ultimately eclipsing his elder sibling in
terms of potential and finding fame by capturing the
gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He went on
to become the first fighter to earn over $100 million
over the course of an enviable career, winning world
championship titles in five different weight classes
while squaring-off in classic showdowns with such
formidable opponents as Roberto “No Mas” Duran, Tommy
“The Hitman” Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Wilfred
Ray retired from
the ring in 1997 with a record 36-3-1, with 25 of those
wins coming by knockout. Today, he lives in California
with his wife, Bernadette, and their children, Camille
and Daniel. Here, he discusses his moving memoir,
The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring.
* * *
Hi Sugar Ray, I’m honored to have this opportunity to
speak with you. How’re you doing, champ?
Leonard: I’m alright, Kam, how’re you?
Great! I understand our mutual friend, filmmaker Janks
Morton, Jr., the son of your first boxing coach, gave
you a call on my behalf.
Leonard: Yeah, man, this kid was so special,
although he’s not a kid anymore, obviously, but he was
there from day one of my rise through boxing. You know
how the years go by and then, when you stop to reflect,
you realize that someone was a part of your whole
evolution as an individual? That’s what I share with
Yeah, he told me you guys go way back. I have a lot of
questions from fans who sent in questions for you.
Editor/legist Patricia Turnier says: I am from Montreal
where you won your gold medal at the ’76 Olympics. What
is your best memory of the city?
Leonard: My very best memory of Montreal was the
moment inside the Olympic arena when I was waiting under
the stadium and those majestic gates opened up. It was a
whole other world. Kam, I was just a youngster from the
ghetto. I suddenly felt like a star. It was emotionally
overwhelming. It was something I’d wanted, but it was
also something I didn’t understand. It was a whole
different world, and Montreal was an absolutely
beautiful setting unlike anywhere I’d ever been before.
So, Montreal in ‘76 was an encompassing experience I
will cherish for the rest of my life.
Patricia also says: It is widely known that it is very
difficult for men to talk about sexual abuse. What made
you decide to go public with your story, and was it a
cathartic and healing experience to write about it?
Leonard: It was cathartic, Patricia. I only wish
that I had had the courage and the knowledge to have
gotten that out of my system, out of my mind or my heart
years earlier. But there is no book, there is no manual
to tell you how to deal with sexual abuse. I saw Todd
Bridges talk about being abused on Oprah. Something that
he said, or an expression that he made that gave me that
little boost I needed to be open about it and to talk
about it as transparently as I did. When I told my wife,
she couldn’t believe it. She was petrified, because it’s
such a no-no, taboo, a hands-off subject. But I’d have
to say hearing Todd Bridges on Oprah was my watershed
Kate Newell says: I saw you on Stephen Colbert and loved
it. She was wondering why a movie hasn’t been made about
Leonard: Being on Colbert was a real treat for me,
too. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it turned
out to be pretty cool. In terms of a movie, we’re
talking about it. It’s on the table but, as you know,
Kam, that type of thing doesn’t just happen overnight,
unfortunately. But I do look forward to seeing the story
of my life onscreen someday.
You should talk to Tyler Perry.
Leonard: I would love that.
Or better yet, Janks, if you could get him to switch
over to drama from directing documentaries.
Leonard: Janks could do it justice, and I’m not
being facetious. You know why? Because he knows the
story. He’s been in the story. And it’s real. It’s raw.
Maybe a little too raw for people at times. But this
generation raised on reality-TV might be ready for it.
I agree. Boxing fan Mike Ehrenberg asks: Was Wilfred
Benitez the best pure boxer you ever faced?
Leonard: Yes, without question. He was a mirror
image of what I considered myself as a boxer. That was
one of my toughest fights, by far. It’s sad that he’s
not mentioned in the same breath as Hearns, Hagler, and
Duran. It always bothered me that he wasn’t considered
in our league, the reason being that he never beat any
of us. But he should be right up there.
Mike also asks: Was the Dicky Eklund knockdown,
highlighted in the movie The Fighter, legit?
Leonard: It was legit that I was knocked down, or
pushed down. [Chuckles] But I remember that fight like
it was yesterday because that guy, Dick Eglund, was so
unorthodox. And it was the first time in my life I
really experienced racial hatred from the fans. We’re
talking about Boston back in ’78.
I lived in Boston from ’75 to ’78. It’s the most racist
city I ever experienced before or since. You couldn’t
step foot in white neighborhoods . . . they wouldn’t serve
you in some restaurants . . . and you couldn’t go to Fenway
Park or the Boston Garden.
Leonard: I can believe it. When I arrived at the
airport, I had a priest or a pastor greet me with, “Hey
I could go on and on about Boston.
Leonard: I could, too. That’s what it was like back
When I interviewed Governor Deval Patrick last year, I
told him I never would’ve believed that Massachusetts
would ever elect a black governor after my experiences
in his state. Mike has one more question: Do you regret
coming out of retirement past your prime to fight Terry
Norris and Hector Camacho?
Leonard: Do I regret it? Yeah, I do, but it took
that to wake up to the fact that my time was over, my
time was gone. Sometimes it just takes that kind of
beating, if you will, to wake up. It does. I didn’t want
to take it. I took it in intervals. The first time was
in ’91. I retired and came back in ’97. Woo! I mean,
come on! I don’t know, man. A six-year layoff? That was
crazy! My career was relatively short, whether you look
at either its length in years or the number of fights I
had. But it was brutal.
That’s because it was the Golden Age in terms of
welterweights and middleweights.
Leonard: Exactly! You couldn’t mess around in that
Harriet Pakula Teweles says: With mounting medical
evidence that contact sports aren’t providing ample
equipment to mitigate against cerebral concussions, how
would you feel about boxing associations mandating
protective headgear for fighters, not just for sparring,
but also during bouts?
Leonard: I’m not in favor of that because we learn
as amateurs how to protect ourselves. And that’s why
there’s a third man in the ring, the referee. And that’s
why there has to be a very strong boxing commission that
doesn’t allow guys in the ring who don’t belong there.
Look at football, where you still have injuries no
matter how much they improve the helmets and other
equipment. Boxing’s a poor man’s sport. We can’t afford
to play golf or tennis. It is what it is. It’s kept so
many kids off the street. It kept me off the street.
What’s my options?
Harriet also asks: Is it true that once, when you were
climbing between the ropes and entering the ring, a
reporter put a microphone up to your face and asked,
‘Sugar Ray, are you going to win tonight?’ And, you
replied, ‘I didn’t come here to lose.’ I hope it’s true
because I’ve always loved you for that—it’s a great life
lesson story. If it isn’t, I’m going to continue to
attribute it to you anyway, because you’re a great life
Leonard: Thanks, Harriet. But yes, I did say that.
Yale grad Tommy Russell says: I really respect your
admission about battling drug abuse during the tough
times of your professional life. What is the most
important thing you have learned from that experience?
Leonard: I learned that I had character defects,
that I was allergic to alcohol and drugs, and that I had
an obsession with all the bad stuff. But thank God that
I woke and that I had good people around me to support
me. There’s not much more I can say about it. You have
to want to be a better person.
Larry Greenberg says: On Celebrity Ghost Stories, you
appeared with one of my favorite young ancestresses,
Leila Jean Davis, and you shared some very personal
experiences. How did you like being on the show?
Leonard: I enjoyed it. I never thought in a million
years that I would tell people that I saw a ghost. And
I’ve seen a lot of ghosts. [Laughs]
Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you
wish someone would?
Leonard: Yeah, how’s your day? [Chuckles]
The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
Leonard: Yes, we all are afraid of something. We
might not admit it, but we are.
The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you
had a good laugh?
Leonard: Just now. [Chuckles]
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Leonard: It used to be a pint of ice cream in bed.
The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last
book you read?
The Big Fight.
What inspired you to write the book?
Leonard: To be honest, I don’t know. I started
one back in 1982 or ’83 when I first retired. But I was
only 25 or 26 and not ready to write my memoirs.
The music maven Heather Covington question: What music
have you been listening to?
Dance with My Father by Luther Vandross.
What is your favorite dish to cook?
Leonard: I’m pretty good with oatmeal.
The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Success.
But not necessarily monetary success.
Kam Williams: Judyth Piazza
asks: How do you define success?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Success
is attaining your dream while helping others to benefit
from that dream materializing.
Kam Williams: Dante Lee,
author of Black Business Secrets, asks: What was the
best business decision you ever made?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Remaining
Kam Williams: The Ling-Ju
Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Sugar Ray Leonard: At about
6, seeing my mom and dad kissing and understanding it.
Kam Williams: The Melissa
Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak
impact who you are as a person?
Sugar Ray Leonard: It made
me realize how much I loved that person.
Kam Williams: What advice do
you have for anyone who wants to follow in your
Sugar Ray Leonard: You don’t
play boxing. [LOL] You really don’t. You play golf, you
play tennis, but you don’t play boxing.
Kam Williams:: The Tavis
Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
Sugar Ray Leonard: As
someone who had an impact outside the ring.
Kam Williams: Thanks again
for the interview, Ray, and best of luck with the book.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Thank
Big Sugar Ray Fights
Roberto Duran v. Sugar Ray /
Sugar Ray Leonard v. Thomas Hearns
Sugar Ray v. Marvin Hagler
* * *
* * * * *
Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert
Dorothy Sterling’s biography of Robert
Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert
Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.:
Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most
history books, the contributions of Negroes
during the Civil War and Reconstructions are
ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes
who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro
slave who stole a ship from the
Confederates, served on it with the Union
Army with distinction, and finally served
several terms in Congress.
this was accomplished against the handicaps
first of slavery, then of the prejudice of
the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow
laws, which eventually conquered him.
Besides its value in contradicting the
history book insinuation that the Negro was
incapable of political enterprise and that
the South was right in imposing Jim Crow
Captain of the Planter
is an exciting adventure story. Captain
Smalls’ escape from slavery and his battle
exploits make interesting reading, and the
style is fast moving.—Barbara
* * * *
Yvette’s cookbook is a 2011 bestseller
GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 31, 2011)—It’s official. It’s a bestseller! From Yvette’s Kitchen To Your Table – A Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine by Yvette Hyman has sold out, according to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). In a record seven weeks after its June 2011 release here, less than 80 copies of the cookbook are left in bookstores and with the author’s family representatives charged with distribution, said Jacqueline Sample, HNP president. The decision on whether to reprint a new batch of From Yvette’s Kitchen … lies with the family of the late award-winning chef, said the publisher.“We are very thankful to the people of St. Martin for embracing Yvette’s cookbook. The visitors to our island also bought many copies of this beautifully designed book of the nation’s cuisine,” said Sample.From Yvette’s Kitchen is made up of 13 chapters, including Appetizers, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Salads, Dumplings, Rice and Fungi, Breads, and Desserts.
The 312-page full color book includes recipes for Souse, the ever-popular Johnny cake, and Conch Yvette’s. Lamb stew, coconut tart, guavaberry, and soursop drink are also among the over 200 recipes à la Yvette in this Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine, said Sample.“We hope that this cookbook’s success also adds to the indicator of the performance and importance of books published in the Caribbean,” said Sample.The other HNP book that sold out in such a short time was the 1989 poetry collection Golden Voices of S’maatin. That first title by Ruby Bute had sold out in about three months and has since been reprinted, said Sample.
* * * * *
The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the
By Sugar Ray Leonard with Michael Arkush
In his New York Times bestselling
memoir, one of America’s greatest boxing
legends faces his single greatest
competitor: himself. In Washington,
D.C., during the 1970s, a black man
could get into the newspapers in one of
two ways: crime—or boxing. “Sugar” Ray
Leonard chose to fight. After winning a
gold medal at the 1976 Olympics, Ray
wanted to call it quits and go to
college, but his family’s financial
needs made him go pro. Boxing history
All the while, another, darker Ray—one
overwhelmed by depression, rage, drug
addiction, sexual abuse, and
greed—battled for dominance. In The
Big Fight, Ray comes to terms with
both these men and shares a brutally
honest and remarkably inspiring portrait
of the rise, fall, and ultimate
redemption of a true fighter—inside and
outside the ring
* * * * *
Andrew Johnson: The 17th President,
By Annette Gordon-Reed
Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth man to
ascend to the highest office in the
land, is generally regarded by
historians as among the weakest
presidents. Gordon-Reed has no intention
of moving Johnson up in rank (“America
went from the best to the worst in one
presidential term,” she corroborates).
So this is no reputation rescue.
Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses
of Monticello: An American Family
(2008), which won the Pulitzer Prize and
the National Book Award, takes as her
task explaining why we should look anew
at such a disastrous chief executive.
She reasons he is worth looking at,
though her reasoning yields a far from
sympathetic look. In a short biography,
all bases can be covered, but the author
is still left to exercise the tone of a
personal essay, which this author
accomplishes brilliantly. Her personal
take on Johnson is that his inability to
remake the country after it was torn
apart rested on his deplorable view of
practical terms, his failure derived from his
stubborn refusal to compromise with Congress in the
abiding post-Lincoln controversy over who was to
supervise the Reconstruction, the executive or the
legislative branch. A failure, yes, but more than
that, a failure at an extremely critical time in
* * * * *
Aké: The Years of Childhood
Aké: The Years of Childhood is a
memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and
lyrical account of one boy's attempt to
grasp the often irrational and hypocritical
world of adults that equally repels and
seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief
anecdotes into history lessons,
conversations into morality plays, memories
into awakenings. Various cultures,
religions, and languages mingled freely in
the Aké of his youth, fostering endless
contradictions and personalized hybrids,
particularly when it comes to religion.
Christian teachings, the wisdom of the
ogboni, or ruling elders, and the power of
alternately terrify and inspire him
carried equal metaphysical weight.
Surrounded by such a collage, he notes that
"God had a habit of either not answering
one's prayers at all, or answering them in a
way that was not straightforward."
In writing from a child's perspective,
Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and
unfiltered honesty while escaping the adult
snares of cynicism and intolerance. His
stinging indictment of colonialism takes on
added power owing to the elegance of his
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
posted 19 July 2012