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Ray Leonard Details His “Big Fight”

Book cover
Book cover

Next week, Sugar Ray Leonard will continue his tour for his newly released autobiography, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring (co-written with Michael Arkush), which gives an intimate and detailed look at his storied career and often turbulent personal life. Many books of this nature promise to “tell all” but really don’t tell us all that much other than the things that fit conveniently into a certain narrative. Leonard seems to go above and beyond in baring his soul.


There was a perception that Leonard and his family were boxing’s version of the Huxtables. I mean, c’mon, tell me you weren’t feeling 7-Up after you saw those iconic ads back in the early ‘80s. Turns out, his real life wasn’t so idyllic. Here is an excerpt from his book:


In addition to his infidelity to his first wife, Juanita, he talks in detail about his addiction to drugs and alcohol and sexual abuse at the hands of an amateur coach.

"I had no intentions of being as transparent as I’ve become. This book was so cathartic; it was so therapeutic for me, of an individual who obtained a great deal of success and fortune and then tough periods where as a fighter, you keep things very close to your chest," Leonard told Maxboxing earlier this week. "But there were things that kinda haunted me and bothered me for over 30-some years. So the book became that healing process, if you will."


Figures who were so instrumental in his life were even surprised by some of the revelations put forth by Leonard.


"Yesterday, I made phone calls, random phone calls to Mike Trainer, who orchestrated my career, Janks Morton, my trainer, Ollie Dunlap, who was my everyday guy. I couldn’t find Angelo Dundee’s number, Pepe Correa, just individuals who were so monumental in my success and my life and yeah, they didn’t know quite what to really say,  except they said, ’Thanks.’ I mean, what do you say when there’s these types of situations in someone’s life that you never knew?" he said on Monday afternoon. "No one really knew except my first wife, Juanita, and Bernadette, my present wife. I never told my father and mother; I never told my brothers and sisters. Never told my dear friends- and I  have good friends- as far as a fighter, as a person, as a guy, as a dude, I tried to work it out myself because we think it’s a sign of weakness. It’s one of those things."


When asked if the book was a public mea culpa to his first wife and family unit, Leonard revealed that, "Juanita, she helped with the book, the things that occurred in my life, good and bad, that I naturally forgot or wanted to forget. But it was through my program- I go to A.A. meetings and you gotta surrender at some point to get things clear and feel better about yourself. You have to let go and not be too much of a publicist or too much damage control- just let it be. Let it be. And I did that and I saw her at the book signing in Atlanta, where she lives and took her to dinner and we just talked, man, just talked. No blaming, just talked- but about good things, though. It was pretty cool."


Leonard went through a series of retirements during his career. Before there was Brett Favre and his annual song-and-dance, Leonard had perfected the art of coming back, only to take long hiatuses and then stage subsequent grand re-entrances. The free time between his fights took its toll on him personally.


"People don’t realize I was only 25, 26, at the top of my game, famous- and I don’t blame everything on one thing- it’s me, too," Leonard admits. "I gotta be held accountable for whatever it was, [whether it was] drugs or alcohol. At some point, I gotta be held accountable but it doesn’t help the deal when you can afford these things and people give you things for free because of who you are. Life was tough."


“Tough,” of course, is a matter of perspective. For some, that means waking up early in the morning to work two jobs to support your family. For Leonard, “tough” meant somehow dealing with all the cocaine and other temptations thrown his way on a regular basis, simply because of who he was.


He does make it clear, "This is not a sad story; this is not a tragedy. My life is a triumph, a victory, especially where I am today and I wanted people to know that. That this is not that rags-to-riches or rags-to-sadness [story], no, no; I am fine. I just had to fix some things, which I’ve done, and it was tough, emotionally, because I did an audio version and I’m in a studio for eight hours talking about myself, admitting my flaws, my character defects and admitting my use of drugs and excessive alcohol, admitting the fact that I cheated numerous times on my wife, that I wasn’t the husband or the father to little Ray and Jarrel. Those things are painful when you actually sit in a booth and tell yourself who you are."


In contrast to his personal travails, you would think that his failures inside the ring (which were few) would pale by comparison. But remember, this is a fighter; he is defined as a public figure by what happens in there. "Even my fights with Hector Camacho, with Terry Norris, those were tough. That was very, very tough," said Leonard, of his two embarrassing defeats that took place long past his prime as a prizefighter.


However, the most difficult subject for him to broach was how he conducted himself. In his words, the process was both "draining" and "cleansing" at the same time.

"I know looking back on it, Juanita, my kids, my parents, they tried to turn the other way, turn their cheek because they don’t want it to be known that their son is an alcoholic or used drugs or whatever but for me, it was sooo good, so refreshing. I mean, it’s not easy- even now, talking to you; it’s not easy- but it’s coming out of me. I’m getting it out of me and every day I talk about it; I feel better. I feel lighter; I feel freer."




So how has the public reacted to Leonard’s book?


“It’s been utterly amazing,” said Leonard, who will be making appearances in Southern California in the upcoming days and weeks, "I mean, I get hugs from the guys and women and kids- kids from [watching Leonard on] ’Dancing with the Stars’ but it is amazing that every now and then, a guy will come up to me and hug me and says, ’Man, thank you so much for giving me the strength because I too was one of those people.’ I don’t know what to say or do but I just embrace them too and just let ’em know it’s OK."


Here is the schedule for Leonard’s upcoming visits:


Saturday June 25th (11 AM-1 PM)

Eso Won Books

4331 Degnan Blvd

LA CA  90008


Wed June 29th (7:30-9 PM)

Village Books

1049 Swarthmore Ave

Pacific Palisades CA  90272


Friday July 8th (11 AM-1:30 PM)

Camp Pendleton Store

Building 15100

Camp Pendleton CA 92055




I really enjoyed the latest episode of HBO’s “Real Sports” which had features on Tiki Barber (formerly of the NFL Giants), who is attempting a comeback, and trainer Anne Wolfe, who has reunited with James Kirkland (who fights on “Solo Boxeo” on Telefutura this Friday night). I just find it interesting that Barber believes in large part that he is overcoming hardships and adversity (mainly, losing his cushy, two million dollar-a-year gig with NBC and his divorce) and that for a guy who thought that football was just a small aspect of his life, the game is suddenly so vital to it.


I wonder what Wolfe thinks of having it so rough?


I’m not necessarily rooting against Barber; I’m actually intrigued whether he can make a return to the NFL after such a long hiatus from the sport (You could say he’s doing a “Sugar Ray” in returning to the gridiron after four years of retirement). But he seems to have other options. He’s college educated; he played in the largest media market and is still well-connected. Wolfe’s future, on the other hand, now lies on the questionable psyche- and chin, perhaps- of Kirkland.


And if there’s anyone that has persevered in a tough, unforgiving world and never stopped fighting, it’s Wolfe. I can’t think of many other people who deserve contentment as much as she does.


OK, you all know how I feel about “Game of Thrones” on HBO which was of “Illmatic” quality. But what was my favorite scene of season one?

After much deliberation, I’d have to say it was the overall growth and maturity of Daenerys Targaryen, who was pimped out by her brother, “The Dragon” Viserys, in a royal transaction. She went from this meek, little girl who was relegated to...well, you know, to becoming like the Hillary Clinton of the Dothrakis. She grew right before our eyes.

That was never more evident when Viserys broke up a lively hut party to demand his jewels and put his sword to Daenerys’ pregnant stomach. I mean, c’mon, if you’re going to basically sell your sister for the good of your royal family, you don’t go around acting like Iceberg Slim. You’d better show her some respect and gratitude for taking one for the clan. Well, big Khal Drogo gave him his, alright; he flat out gold-plated the guy into death and the sister just stood there, cold-blooded, and let it happen, stating that a real dragon cannot be burned to death (as we later found out).

Yeah, but throughout the first season, Daenerys done grew up like Rudy Huxtable (Yes, that’s two Huxtable references in this article).

- As for my least favorite character (c’mon who else?), King Joffrey. Seriously, tell me you don’t want to cut his head off yourself.

- Can you believe Ned Starks lost his head like that? Geez, I know there was a book to follow but isn’t this like Tony Soprano sleeping with the fishes in the opening season?

- Khal Drogo, that was by far the pound-for-pound the roughest, toughest warrior in the land.

- And inch-for-inch, Tyrion (the imp) is by far the only likable one in the Lannister lot.

- How in the world are we all going to keep our sanity as we wait for this series to resume next spring?  That’s the only real drawback with some of these classic HBO series. But honestly, I know it may go through a “sophomore jinx” but “Game” looks to be headed toward the pantheon of “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.”


It looks like Mike Oliver will face newly-minted WBO featherweight titlist Orlando Salido on July 23rd in Salido’s hometown defense in Mexico. This card will be a part of the “Top Rank Live” series on FSN...WBA light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov will take on Danny Santiago on July 29th from the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas on a show broadcast on Telefutura...And “Fast” Fred Sternburg sent a reminder letting us know that Manny Pacquiao’s duet with Dan Hill, “Sometimes When We Touch” has risen to number 25 in the Secondary Adult Contemporary Charts...Was there any doubt that Ortiz-Mayweather was going to end up on HBO PPV?...Did the San Diego “Super” Padres really take two outta three from the Red Sox at Fenway?! Take that, you traitor, Adrian Gonzalez!...That story on Muammar Gaddafi’s son’s attempt at being a soccer player on “Real Sports” was as interesting and entertaining as anything I’ve seen related to that sport...HBO Boxing’s most recent edition of “Face Off” was such a doozy that our own Managing Editor Coyote Duran put pen to parody in his latest “Fistic Funny” for promoter Boxing 360’s blog: can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at


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