Harris: Joining us now is Sugar Ray Leonard, one of our town’s most beloved sports heroes over the years, even though he’s moved out of town and lives in Los Angeles. He’s back in town this morning because he is on a promotional tour for his comeback. He is out of retirement after five years of sitting on the sidelines, and he’s going to box again in February against Hector “Macho” Camacho. Good morning, Ray!
Leonard: Good morning, Paul.
Harris: Great to have you back in town, and why? That’s the first question that has to come to mind, why box again?
Leonard: First of all, I have said on numerous occasions, “This is it, this is the final one.” Particularly my last fight, when I was soundly beaten by Terry Norris. I said, “Well, guys, this is it. This is an indication that I don’t have it any more.” But what has bothered me for some four or five years was the fact that the results were due to some circumstances which I never disclosed, mainly because I didn’t want to be a whiner or a poor loser. But the fact is that I had sustained an injury to my ribs prior to the fight. So I wore pads on my chest and even the night of the fight I had to have four injections to get through the pain. I was going through a very emotional divorce with my wife, Juanita, and these things were contributing factors. So as time passed on I said, “You know what, Ray, let’s go out one more time.” And things have happened in a gradual progression.
Harris: But it’s not like people out there, certainly in our area, are thinking you are a tainted champion. I mean, you’ve won how many different divisions? Five?
Leonard: It’s five, yes.
Harris: And you are one of the greatest champions of all time, so it is not like people are thinking that. So this is a personal thing with you I think.
Leonard: Oh, yes. It’s not the perspective of the outcome and how people feel. It’s me, personally. And also, I’m an athlete, I’m a fighter. This is what I do. This is what I still enjoy. I think that one of the main issues here is the fact that being forty, people say, “You know, you are forty years old. You should be taking Prozac and playing golf.”
Leonard: I think this is a whole new age and time. People are living longer. People are exercising. People are eating better. I think we need to re-define what old age is.
Harris: I think you are just going to make me look bad.
Harris: I think also, Ray, deep down inside there you just want to beat the hell out of Camacho, don’t you?
Leonard: Well, I didn’t want to say that. Thanks for helping me. But also, Camacho is a pretty interesting character and we have a press conference today at Planet Hollywood. Although Hector may be the character and a flashy dresser, when he comes to fight, he comes to fight.
Harris: Let me tell you something, Ray. There is no flashier dresser or prettier guy in boxing. It’s you and Muhammad Ali, and probably Ray Robinson. Guys like that who even after a fight, you come out of there and you shine that smile, and everybody loves you.
Leonard: Well, thank you. I actually designed each and every robe I would wear into the ring, and made sure that it was somewhat symbolic of the fight. Whether it was in Las Vegas, in Maryland, whatever the case may have been. It always symbolized where I was.
Harris: Well maybe this one could just say, “I’m forty and I can still do this!”
Leonard: Guys listen, I’m forty and I’m a grandfather also.
Harris: That’s right!
Leonard: Well, I’m very happy, I’ve got a beautiful granddaughter, and…life goes on.
Harris: Can you tell us about your training, because I remember when you came out for that Hagler fight, you were still fairly old for a boxer and Mister Chisled Guy. Are you going to do that same kind of regimen, where you drink the eggs like “Rocky” did, or what?
Leonard: Nope. I can’t digest those eggs now.
Leonard: Talk about age and I can’t digest eggs! But, I’ve taken on the same training regimen I’ve had in the past. Nothing has really changed. I’m using weights now. I’ve incorporated weights into my training regimen.
Harris: Let me just compare my training regimen to yours. Do you eat a lot of Oreos and Chips Ahoy?
Leonard: I’ve passed on that.
Harris: I thought you might. Listen, let me turn you from boxer to boxing analyst, which has also been a big job for you over the years. We have got to talk about this Tyson/Holyfield fight of nine days ago. Were you as surprised as everybody else was?
Leonard: Not really.
Harris: No? Why not?
Leonard: First of all, Evander Holyfield has something that none of the guys have had that have faced Tyson recently. And that was he believed in himself and was not afraid. It’s the mental aspect. Once you are into that ring, if you are petrified, the first punch you go down. Remember Bruce Seldon?
Leonard: This man, Evander, whether it was spiritual conviction, whatever, it pulled him through. He believed in himself. I mean the general consensus was no way, the guy has a bad heart, this and that. And I kind of felt the same way at one time. But, you know what? He believed so highly in himself, he was so confident, so determined guys that, if anything, it was going to be a good fight.
Harris: And it’s got to make you feel good, because you and Evander are kind of in similar situations. Doctors told him at some point that he should never box again, and here he is boxing again and winning the championship. They said the same thing to you after the eye thing, and here you’re trying to come back. Now, did the Holyfield/Tyson fight bring back some legitimacy to boxing after the circus atmosphere the last couple of years?
Leonard: You know, I think that fight did help boxing. It gave it a shot of adrenaline, it gave it a shot of credibility, it gave it a shot of class. Holyfield is nothing but class, and I think he’s a breath of fresh air for the sport.
Harris: How much do you think they get for that rematch?
Leonard: Ummmm….we don’t have enough time to calculate that total.
Harris: (laughs) That’s going to be a big one. When is your fight? It’s at the end of February, right?
Leonard: February 28th in the Atlantic City Convention Center. I’m getting closer and closer to home!
Harris: Well come back and fight here! We’ll do one at the Armory or something!
Leonard: Okay, Paul.
Harris: We’ll put on a card with, maybe Riddick or Tyson or Evander one of these days.
Leonard: I think I would do better with you.
Harris: (laughs) You mean you won’t be going into that weight class? You won’t be doing a DeNiro thing and putting on another 40 pounds to fight the heavyweights?
Leonard: That won’t be one of my weight categories, no. (laughs).
Harris: (laughs) Sugar Ray Leonard and Hector Macho Camacho February 28th on Pay-Per-View and of course in Atlantic City. Ray, thanks for joining us this morning. Good luck to you.
Leonard: Thanks, Paul. Take care.
Copyright 1996, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Rhyan Jones