x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

'Sugar' sweet aftertaste remains many years later

Best Olympic boxer No 3 "Sugar" Ray Leonard demonstrated to a Montreal audience at the 1976 Olympic Games why he had been a gifted the same nickname as the formidable "Sugar" Ray Robinson.

"Sugar" Ray Leonard demonstrated to a Montreal audience at the 1976 Olympic Games why he had been a gifted the same nickname as the formidable "Sugar" Ray Robinson.

The 20-year-old American brought to the ring many of the same characteristics: fast hands, ring awareness and an uncanny ability to slip punches, as well as a sunny disposition and thoughtfulness not always associated with the fight game.

He wrote poetry, as opposed to the taunting doggerel favoured by Muhammad Ali.

Leonard had a difficult road to gold in the light-welterweight division, but he never detoured, despite chronically painful hands, winning six consecutive matches by a 5-0 score.

In the semi-finals he defeated Kazimier Szczerba of Poland, who had beaten him in a controversial decision in 1973.

In the final he faced Andres Aldama of Cuba, who had knocked out his first five opponents. Leonard battered Aldama, who would win gold in 1980, and the referee gave the Cuban two standing eight-counts.

Breaking a vow to retire after winning the gold and attend the University of Maryland, Leonard turned professional and enjoyed a notable career.

He was the first boxer to earn more than US$100 million (Dh367m) in the ring, and he won championships in five weight classes.

The Olympics have launched many a heavyweight career, from Floyd Patterson to Ali to George Foreman, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.

Leonard was one of the rare breed of smaller boxers who went directly to a lucrative professional career and battles with the likes of Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns have left a lasting impression on the minds of fans and promoters.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae


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