Sugar Ray Leonard on Dancing Elimination: 'That's Life'
04/13/2011 AT 11:30 AM EDT
"Everyone has an optimism about themselves, and I'm very confident that I did enough to maintain," the boxing legend told PEOPLE. "But that's life. Life is surprising sometimes. Life is shocking sometimes. But you know what? I've gotten down, and I've always gotten back up."
Leonard, 54, was especially bothered about his dismissal because he finally was getting the hang of how things work in the ballroom.
"The highlight was [Monday] night, you know, and what I did," he told reporters. "I performed and I found myself improving and I saw myself improving. I went home and saw myself on TiVo, and I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it!' I wish there was more [time]."
Trebunskaya, 30, says her partner was one of the easiest to work with during her run on the show.
"He was absolutely the best performer that I've had," she said. "I've never had to explain to him how to hear the music or where the beat is. He has the beat and he can tell you all about it. He can show you."
Leonard, who says he will especially miss the friendships he made while participating on the show, in particular struck a chord with Kirstie Alley, who couldn't hide her unhappiness over bidding adieu to her pal.
"I've known Sugar Ray for a long time," the actress said. "He's one of the most amazing, dear people in the universe, and it really is sad that he's going. I love him."