Sweetness for Sugar

updated 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

IT WAS BOTH A SWEET AND ROCKY courtship and deserved a storybook ending. In front of 250 guests, former world champion boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and model Bernadette Robi said "I do" on Aug. 20 at their $8 million Pacific Palisades, Calif., estate. The hopelessly romantic bash boasted 10,000 roses and a plane flying an I Love You, Bernadette banner and was followed by a honeymoon suite at the Bel-Air hotel stocked with caviar, champagne, 100 flickering candles and the music of Kenny G., who had introduced the pair. The bottom line? "I stopped counting at a quarter of a million," says Ray.

Leonard, 37, and Robi, 35, met in 1990 at a Luther Vandross concert, when, Sugar Ray says, he was still "going through my own personal hell" over the collapse of his 10-year marriage to wife Juanita (now married to Atlanta Braves outfielder Otis Nixon), mother of their sons, Ray Jr., 18, and Jarrel, 9. Leonard asked Bernadette out—only to stand her up three times. On the fourth try, the strong-willed former SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit model took charge. "When I told her I would meet her at the restaurant, she said, 'No, no. I will pick you up,' " recalls Leonard. "And the rest, as they say, is history."

The daughter of Paul Robi, one of the original Platters, and his wife, Martha, Bernadette was divorced from football star Lynn Swann in 1983 after a 22-month marriage. She had other romances, one serious, before meeting Sugar Ray. "I fell in love with his kind heart," she says. "Even though he was having problems, he gave more of himself to me than to anyone," she says.

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