Fox Sports Net's one-hour documentary series, BEYOND THE GLORY, continues with an all-new episode featuring world famous boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard. In this episode, BTG tells the story of how this underweight, underprivileged youngster from Wilmington, North Carolina, worked against all odds to become an Olympic gold-medalist and the world welterweight champion.
Leonard was raised in a small two-bedroom apartment with his mother, father, three sisters and two brothers. His father, formerly a boxer in the Navy, passed his love for the sport onto his sons and Leonard quickly took to it. The youngest and smallest of the three brothers, Leonard regularly challenged them to fights, and much to their surprise, always won.
In 1972, Leonard was on track to participate in the Olympic trials. Once there, the 15-year-old boxer, who concealed his true age in order to qualify, still needed to lose a few pounds to make weight, and while running the track, fainted and was disqualified. For the first time, Leonard admits what really happened that day: "I never told anyone, I didn't faint, I faked it. I just felt that it was almost inhuman for me to make that weight at 132. That's been on my mind and in my heart for so many years. I'm 47-years-old and I'm still thinking about it, because I quit, I gave up."
Hanging his head in shame, Leonard was sure he would quit boxing. But something else happened at the Olympic Trials that would change his life. After meeting Coach Sergeant Thomas Johnson, Leonard was dubbed "Sugar Ray" Leonard, after the famed boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Inspired, Leonard studied the veteran boxer's moves and style until they became his own.
By the 1976 Olympics, Leonard was ready. That year, his hard work paid off as he took home the gold medal with a 5-0 decision over Cuba's Andres Aldama in the finals. The next year, manager and friend Mike Trainer gathered friends to invest in Leonard, allowing him to promote himself.
Leonard made his professional debut in 1977, stepping into the ring to fight Luis "The Bull" Vega, where he won in a six-round decision. Then in 1979, Leonard took on seasoned veteran Wilfredo Benitez in his first title bout. Leonard earned the welterweight world championship belt with a technical knockout in round 15 with only six seconds left in the fight.
In 1980, Leonard set out to defend his title against lightweight champion Roberto Duran. Although he fought hard, Duran came out victorious and won the title in a unanimous 15-round decision. Determined, Leonard demanded a rematch, and five months later, he regained his title.
The next decade would prove to be tumultuous for Leonard, suffering from a detached retina and retiring twice before finally bowing out for good. Currently, Leonard is still making his mark on the boxing world as a promoter, helping to shape the lives and careers of young fighters in addition to producing the upcoming NBC boxing-reality show, "The Contender." In the end, Leonard says it best: "I was a fighter back then, and I'm still a fighter."
Those interviewed in addition to Sugar Ray Leonard include: former publicist Charles Brotman, father Cicero Leonard, mother Getha Leonard, former trainer Dave Jacobs, ex-wife Juanita Leonard, brothers Roger Leonard and Kenny Leonard, son Ray Leonard, Jr., former pro boxer Roberto Duran and former trainer Janks Morton.
More excerpts from the documentary:
Sugar Ray Leonard on meeting Sugar Ray Robinson – "It gave me motivation to try harder, to stay focused, to learn more about the sport of boxing. It was incentive. "
On boxing – "I ate boxing, I slept boxing, I breathed boxing. Boxing was in my blood. That's all I thought about was being the best ever."
On working with young fighters – "It takes me back to when I was one of those young men. I know what they're thinking, I know what they're feeling, I know what their dreams are, their hopes are. But all that matters at that precious time then was making sure you made weight."
On Muhammad Ali – "He was God-like. He gave me a bit of advice, he said, 'If you decide to turn pro, always be all man."
On Roberto Duran and being beat – "He challenged my manhood and won."
Juanita Leonard on Leonard not able to walk away from boxing – "This is Ray's life. This is his whole life. And when it's in you, it's hard to get it out."