Not since a brash young Cassius Clay flashed his dukes in 1960 has a boxer captured the nation's imagination in quite the same way as Sugar Ray Leonard. An engaging mixture of charm and determination, he won a gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Yet, unlike other Olympic flames, Leonard did not burn out. Three years later he was the World Boxing Council welterweight champion.
Last June Leonard lost the title to Panama's Roberto Duran in a close decision. In a startlingly different confrontation in New Orleans last month, Duran (who had a 72-1 record) cried "No más, no más" (No more, no more) and quit in the eighth round. Leonard did more than regain his championship. He established that he could be as convincing in victory as earlier he had been admirable in defeat.
Duran and Leonard were paid $10.5 million (Duran $1.5 million, Leonard $9 million) for their first bout, and $15 million for the rematch (Duran $8 million, Leonard $7 million)—the largest purse in boxing history. Before Sugar Ray won the title in 1979, no two welterweights had ever made more than $1 million in the same fight. Leonard changed all that.
In four years as a professional, he has a 28-1 record and $21 million in earnings. The money has been invested in blue chip stocks, municipal bonds and treasury bills. He also has bought real estate—apartment houses and single-family homes—and, like others who are self-employed, has put money in a tax-free retirement fund.
Leonard will not stay in the ring just for the big paydays, he insists. He has tried sportscasting and may do films. ("No mushy stuff," warns wife Juanita, 23. "Superman movies are okay.")
At 24, Sugar Ray has what he always wanted—security and freedom. "We'll be able to live without limitations," says the son of a supermarket produce man. "All my life I've had to set limits on how many beers I drink, on how late I stay up, even on my wife—what I do with her, where we go, how much I see her. Now I can do what I want."
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