Sugar's Sweet Comeback
updated 04/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 04/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT
A few rounds into last week's "Duel in the Desert" in Las Vegas, and even the cynics resisted Sugar Ray no more. Suddenly, people became a party to his romance. In a 12-round, split decision, the 3-to-1 underdog proved too elusive, too sweet, too quick with his storied left hand for Hagler, 32. He danced, juked, mugged and flurried. He amazed and frustrated his foe.
To be sure, there was a period of crisis. For five rounds in the middle of the fight, Hagler ate Leonard up, fed on his liver, as the challenger languished, seemingly spent, on the ropes. Ray was only storing potential, converting pain by a boxer's alchemy into energy.
When it was over, Hagler wandered bewildered around the ring. Leonard grabbed the microphone and said, "Thank you, thank you. I will see you in six months and 15 pounds later." Subsequently, Ray said he was "only kidding" about the move up to light heavyweight and another fight. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps he'd had another vision. No one would resist this time.